Mudslides shut down North Carolina highway; Drivers freed

State - Regional

SWAIN CO., NC (WSPA) – A western North Carolina highway is closed and some vehicles were stranded due to four separate mudslides caused by heavy rains, Saturday evening.

US-19/74 in Swain County is closed in both directions through the Nantahala Gorge, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Almost three inches of rain caused four mudslides in a five-mile stretch between Hewitts Road and the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

Crews cleared enough space for the stranded vehicles to get out of the gorge area.

NCDOT officials reported that all vehicles previously stuck between slides have exited the Nantahala 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.”

NCDOT crews from Cherokee and Graham Counties are working to remove debris from the western end of the gorge while crews from Swain and Jackson Counties work on the eastern end.

Crews estimate cleanup will continue at least into Tuesday.

Detours have been set up to bypass the slides:

Westbound traffic will take NC-28 west to Steccoah then NC-143 south to Robbinsville, then NC-129 south to Topton and US-19/74.

Eastbound traffic will take the detour in reverse.

According to the NCDOT, the road was closed shortly before 7:30pm and is not expected to possibly reopen until Tuesday.

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