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Skyway closed indefinitely

Photo courtesy of The Graham Star
This photos taken by The Graham Star Editor James Budd, shows the damage to the Cherohala
Skyway after 9 inches of rain caused a rock slide last week. The slide occurred on the North
Carolina side near the state line with Tennessee and could have the popular tourist route closed
for several months.
Published: 9:22 AM, 01/23/2013
 

Author: Staff Report
Source: The Monroe County Advocate

By James Budd

The Graham Star

North Carolina transportation officials say it may be several months before the Cherohala Skyway can be reopened after part of the westbound pavement collapsed 1,000 feet into a ravine in Graham County Thursday, Jan. 17.

The collapsed roadway is located about one-tenth of a mile west of the Stratton Meadow Bridge, approximately a mile from the Tennessee state line.

The slide is about 150 feet wide and 1,000 feet deep. On Thursday, the sound of falling boulders could still be heard cascading below, as the slide continued. Muddy rivulets descended into the chasm.

Graham County has been pounded by 9 inches of rain during a three-day period, according to Tom Ward, an official National Weather Service observer in the county.

Joel Setzer, district engineer with NCDOT in Sylva, said there have been 22 slides in Graham County, the most in the region.

Setzer said Thursday he expects the Skyway will be closed for at least two months.

The engineer described the slide as a "fill dirt slide," which destroys pavement and knocks out roads for longer periods of time than "cut slides." In cut slides boulders and debris fall on the roadway from high "cuts," the engineer said.

"You just clean them up," Setzer said.

Fill-dirt slides are more expensive and complex.

The Newfound Gap slide in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also a fill slide, Setzer said.

NCDOT officials were installing directional  and detour signs in Robbinsville and at the Skyway Thursday afternoon.


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