UPDATE: Nantahala River reopened after mudslides
UPDATE: The Nantahala River in the Nantahala Gorge in North Carolina has reopened, the U.S Forest Service has announced.
Mudslides caused U.S 19/74 in the Nantahala Gorge to shut down on August 25, 2019, and polluted the river with debris.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation cleared the debris from the highway and repaired damaged portions by Tuesday, August 27.
The U.S Forest Service sent contractors to remove the landslide debris from the river and completed operations on Friday, August 30.
On Tuesday, September 3, the U.S Forest Service removed additional river hazards.
"The landslide cleanup in the Nantahala Gorge has been a success. I appreciate the public's patience with us as we worked through it. In the end, I couldn't be happier and more grateful for all the support from Duke Energy, Swain County Emergency Management, NC-Department of Transportation, Nantahala Gorge Association, American Whitewater, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and all the Forest Service employees that worked tirelessly. Thank you all," states David Perez, Acting Nantahala District Ranger.
PREVIOUS STORY: Heavy rains Saturday night caused four mudslides have closed U.S. 19/74 in the Nantahala Gorge and traffic being detoured around the area.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation said a rainstorm that brought 2.8 inches of rain spilled debris into the road in four places in a five-mile stretch between Hewitts Road and the Nantahala Outdoor Center.
Officials said crews will work through the night to clear enough debris to allow vehicles located between slides to exit the gorge.
“This is unprecedented in the Nantahala Gorge,” Division 14 Engineer Brian Burch said. “We have engineers on site, equipment on site, and crews on site working with state highway patrol and local responders to help get people out as quickly and safely as possible tonight.”
“The road will not open tonight for through traffic, but we’ll get folks out,” Division 14 Maintenance Engineer Wesley Grindstaff said after examining the westernmost slide. “We will not know the entire severity of the slides until we have daylight on Sunday morning.”
A temporary detour has been established around the Nantahala Gorge. Westbound vehicles will take N.C. 28 West to Steccoah, then N.C. 143 South to Robbinsville, then N.C. 129 South to Topton and U.S. 19/74. Eastbound traffic will follow those routes in reverse — from Topton to Stecoah to Robbinsville to U.S. 19/74.