ROGERSVILLE – State Route 70 on the south side of Clinch Mountain was blocked by a massive rock slide on Saturday morning, according to Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency Director Gary Murrell.
And that was just one of several serious traffic incidents that took place across Hawkins County on Saturday, according to EMA Director Murrell.
The most serious other incident, he said, was discovered on Saturday along Highway 11W off the westbound lanes of Highway 11W along Cherokee Lake near the old Cherokee Boat Dock. Murrell said a pickup truck was believed to have left the road and entered the “backwaters” of Cherokee Lake either late Friday or early Saturday.
The driver of that vehicle remained missing on Saturday evening and was believed to have “entered the water” when the truck left the roadway.
Search and recovery efforts remained in progress there on Saturday evening.
Rock Slide Details
He said the rock slide blocked the two-lane roadway on the side of Clinch Mountain above its intersection with Cave Springs Road and below the top of Clinch Mountain.
About 7:15 p.m. Saturday, EMA Director Murrell said Tennessee Department of Transportation personnel had told him it could be “weeks” before the roadway can be reopened. He noted that a full evaluation of the situation could not be attempted on Saturday and that TDOT was concerned that more rock could be lose above the scene of the slide.
A Twitter message on the TDOT Smartway website indicated on Saturday afternoon that the roadway might be cleared by 4 p.m. May 16. But that was only an estimated, according to Murrell.
He noted in a telephone interview that there was a “soft” roadblock in place at the intersection of State Route 94 and State Route 70 (the Alum Well intersection). He also noted that there was a more permanent barricade at the intersection of State Route 70 and Cave Springs Road on the south side of Clinch Mountain. Murrell also noted that there was another roadblock on State Route 70 at the bridge over the Clinch River in Kyle's Ford.
In addition, Murrell said, temporary illuminated signs had been placed on Highway 70 near its intersection with U.S. Highway 11W and on the north side of Clinch Mountain.
Murrell said there had been initial, unconfirmed reports that a vehicle might have been on the mountain in the path of the rock slide when the rock slide took place. He noted that, as of late Saturday afternoon, the report of a possible vehicle in the slide area remained unconfirmed.
Also on Saturday, according to EMA Director Murrell, a dump truck pulling a trailer that was carrying a piece of construction equipment over turned on Highway 113 in southwestern Hawkins County.
In addition, a serious traffic crash took place on Highway 11W west of Rogersville near the road that leads to the Cherokee Dragway. Murrell said a Wings Air Rescue helicopter was originally dispatched to that accident scene, but the helicopter was canceled.
“They took the patient (or patients) by ambulance,” he said. “I don't know how bad they were hurt.”