BLUEFIELD -- A rockslide that sent large boulders into the northbound lanes of Interstate 77 between Bluefield and Princeton has left the lanes closed until further notice.
Division of Highways crews were called to the scene near Mile Marker 3 on Wednesday morning after a few rocks slid from the side of the slope and fell to the road.
More rocks continued to fall as workers tried to clear the lanes. Weather conditions complicated the cleanup, as below-freezing temperatures and slick roadways plagued the area.
"We've been working around the clock to get the dangerous material down. Currently, we don't know how much we have," said Alan Reed, assistant district engineer for the Division of Highways.
"Our primary concern is safety. Second is opening the lane," he said.
Reed was unable to provide an estimate for when the area may reopen.
The DOH has contracted Vecellio & Grogan to bring in excavators and other heavy equipment to break down rock at the bottom of the slide before the material at the top can be removed. They plan to bring several more pieces of equipment to assist in the cleanup.
"We have most of the rock maintained to one side, but we have to clear that out to make room for the material that is still at the top of the hill. Once we have that busted up, we can manage what's at the top. It's just not safe right now," Reed said.
The rockslide must be stabilized before any permanent corrections can be made. Concrete barriers have been placed in the right lane of I-77 to contain the debris.
Contractors worked through the night and will continue to do so until at least one lane is open, Reed said. The rock material is being hauled to an area about a mile from the site.
"You don't usually see rockslides of this magnitude. Not on the interstate -- not with the way they're designed. This doesn't happen often," Reed said.
Travelers will continue to be routed to the detour at Exit 1 to U.S. 460 and then can reenter the Interstate in Princeton at Exit 9.No injuries were reported.