FLOYD COUNTY, KY (WOWK) — More fallout from this weekend’s wet weather comes in the form of a massive roadblock that has traffic snarled in Floyd County.
It may be weeks before the road is back open.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has its hands full now. Officials tell 13 News the rocks covering the road are around the size of mobile homes and they’re not going to move by themselves.
“Massive rockfall…This is the biggest one that we’ve had. I’ve been here over 20 years, so it’s the biggest one by far,” says Randy Hall, Highway Tech Superintendent 1 with Kentucky Transportation.
“The one behind the right curve, is longer than our largest rescue truck,” says Captain Ross Shurtleff, of City of Prestonsburg Police.
Around 9:30 p.m. on Monday, the Prestonsburg 911 center started getting the calls. Kentucky Highway officials and drivers who frequent these roads say falling rocks coming down from the hillsides is nothing new. However, the size of this rockslide is a different story.
“The initial complaint was just a rockslide which happens often in terrain such as this. When units arrived, they realized it wasn’t going to be something that they could get out with brooms and shovels,” Shurtleff says.
Officials speculate the entire sandstone cliff-face fell on this road which they say hundreds travel every day.
They say they got the road closed off in less than an hour after it happened and do not have any reported injuries or missing persons at this time.
But why did this much rock fall at once?
“Weather plays a big part. Like where it gets cold and hot, water freezes and expands and falls–breaks the rocks apart,” Hall says.
It’s caused a headache for some local drivers.
“I saw it on social media last night but I honestly forgot about it. So now we’ll probably have to turn around and go the other way…Total trip, I’ll cut down and go around probably about ten miles out of the way,” says Rodney Minix from Salyersville, Kentucky.
Others say something needs to be done.
“They need to come in and take the rock cliff back some and redo the road and keep it from falling so much,” says David Bowling of Johnson County.
“I never would have imagined that a rockface would split to this sheer magnitude as it has,” Shurtleff says.
Contractors are on scene to begin breaking up the rock to haul it away, and the waste rock will be used for other projects.
Officials say it could take up to two weeks to clean up because they have to actually blast through the rock to make it smaller and truck away. Depending on how hard the rock is, it could prolong or shorten that estimated closure time.
“A lot goes into it. They’re going to have engineers look at it. It’s not just clean-up, we’ve got to make sure that it’s safe to reopen, we’ve got to mitigate the problem to ensure that once we do clean it up and we do open the road again, it’s safe to be traveled on,” Shurtleff says.
For drivers, they are asking for the public’s patience as they work to get this taken care of and ask that you plan alternate routes—like Route 23 or Route 302—for the foreseeable future.