Rains cause slips, slides across W.Va.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Crumbling roads and slipping hillsides are wreaking havoc with travel and keeping some people from their homes in Southern West Virginia.
The state Department of Transportation has come up with a plan to help the Logan County families affected by a mudslide that has blocked access to their homes in a small community near Neibert.
The residents of the 40 or so homes along Madison Creek Road have been prevented from getting home since the mountain along the road began to slide late last week. Some voluntarily evacuated earlier this week and were ferried across the Guyandotte River. Others have opted to remain stranded in their homes.
Heavy rains and weather caused the hillside to begin to slide last Friday. It continued Sunday and Monday.
Transportation engineers on Thursday came up with a plan to provide residents with a drivable path to and from their homes by Christmas, said Carrie Bly, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman.
"This is just a horrible time of the year for this to happen," Bly said. "So we need to get them access, at least temporary access, as soon as we can."
Engineers plan to push the remaining debris down the hill onto the road, where it will form a hump or small hill. Residents will then be able to drive over it.
Bly said the plan would involve a method used by some strip mine operations where a bulldozer is tethered to another bulldozer that is over a hillside pushing material down.
She called it an "intricate, complicated, scary, dangerous kind of thing," but said the department is going to great lengths to do it. The hillside, which has been unstable since Friday's initial slide, will be stabilized by this action, she said.
The residents in that area will begin to see things moving in the next few days.
That solution is temporary, she said, and will only be in place until engineers finish a temporary causeway over the Guyandotte between Madison Creek Road and Neibert Bottom Road.
Officials said Wednesday that the causeway, a low-river bridge, was the best option to get people to and from their homes. Once the causeway is completed -- an action expected to take several weeks -- Madison Creek Road will be shut down again.
Officials are still working on a permanent solution for Madison Creek Road.
Transportation engineers have already come up with a plan for a slide that has caused some traffic hang-ups on Interstate 77 in Mercer County. Engineers noticed a few rocks coming down the hill a few weeks ago and thought they should take care of the problem before it got worse, Bly said.
A rockslide shut down I-77's northbound lanes near Bluefield in March. It took several days to clean up and forced traffic to detour.
The slow lane on the northbound side between milemarker 3 and 3.5 has been closed since Dec. 2 because of the small rockslide. Engineers planned a small explosion in the area between mile markers 1 and 9 to force the rest of the hillside down.
"We haven't seen a lot of movement but we want to be in control of it," Bly said. "We're just going to bring the hillside down."
The interstate and a section of W.Va. 112 will be closed to traffic from 10 a.m. to noon Friday, she said. Crews will work to clear debris and reopen the southbound lanes within 30 minutes, but the northbound lanes are expected to be closed for the remainder of the day. The fast lane may be open by dusk, she said.
Northbound traffic will be detoured onto U.S. 52 at Exit 1 and then onto U.S. 460 east and back onto Interstate 77 at Princeton. Flaggers will be placed along the way to help guide motorists. Local drivers are asked to avoid the area and use alternate routes.
Heavy rains worsened a slip under Coal River Road in Lincoln County. Bly said the road was slipping already but a water main break and three days of rain in the area caused it to worsen.
"The road there is cracking and starting to fall," Bly said. "The guardrail is already over the hillside."
Bly said the remaining road looks like it's been through an earthquake. Those residents have an alternate route, she said.
Though there was an issue with the alternate route over the weekend when it flooded, but she said there isn't a plan in place yet to address the issue.
"We can get to them and they can get out," Bly said. "There's no plan as of right now for a fix there. We have to let it play out."
The road is closed to traffic.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4850.