Written by: Romando Dixson, Asheville Citizen Times

A westbound lane of Interstate 40 in Haywood County was reopened overnight following a rock slide Monday evening.

Crews were able to remove debris from the roadway and the blocked lane was reopened early Tuesday morning, according to an N.C. Department of Transportation bulletin.

The rock slide happened just past mile marker 7 and was reported about 7:45 p.m. Monday. One vehicle was struck and towed away, said Joel Setzer, assistant division engineer for DOT.

Geotechnical engineers and maintenance engineers assessed the site to determine if the interstate should be closed and whether it was safe for DOT workers to clear the rocks and debris, Setzer said. They decided it was safe to keep the interstate open and begin cleanup.

"The geotechnical engineers' review came after dark and they can see a lot more in the daylight," he said. "So they're going to come back at daybreak or shortly thereafter and either confirm this assessment or change it."

"We are very grateful that there wasn't any more property damage or any injuries," he said. "But we regret there was one vehicle hit."

Interstate 40 in Haywood County has a history of rock slides. A rock slide in 1997 shut down the interstate for about three months. Another rock slide in October 2009 closed the interstate until the following April. The state spent millions of dollars on cleanup and repair.

"This particular spot is one of our areas of highest concern," Setzer said.

Setzer said heavy rain in the mountains contributed to this rock slide, which happened about seven miles from the Tennessee/North Carolina border. The likelihood of a rock slide increases "dramatically" with increased rainfall, Setzer said.

Read or Share this story: