Officials monitoring slide near Big Stone Gap reservoir; crews repairing Route 23

Mike Still • Updated Feb 26, 2019 at 8:27 AM

NORTON – A mudslide in the Crackers Neck section of Wise County and two cracking shoulders along U.S. Route 23 kept state and county officials and crews busy on Monday.

Wise County deputies, civil engineers, Big Stone Gap water department workers and firefighters from the Valley and Big Stone Gap fire departments were standing watch along the approximately 400-foot-long slide area Monday, almost 12 hours after area residents reported the main slide.

Wise County Administrator Mike Hatfield on Monday said that no residents downhill from the slide had to be evacuated. The Big Stone Gap Big Cherry reservoir, dam and main water tank are about 50 yards above the slide area but had not been affected by the slide, he added.

The slide had not filled a stream running below the debris field, Hatfield said, but county and state emergency personnel were monitoring the area in case the slide began to block the stream.

“We did declare a local emergency in case things got worse,” Hatfield said. “We did not need to set up shelters or evacuate anyone yet.”

Wise County Sheriff’s Col. Grant Kilgore said the slide appeared stable Monday evening, but crews had a trackhoe and emergency pumps on hand in case the stream is blocked and they need to clear debris or pump water around any blockage.

Trees across the slide area could be heard popping from the stress of the moving dirt.

Kilgore said a resident reported small signs of a slide on Sunday, but the main slide started at about 7:30 a.m. Monday.

Hatfield said an attempt to have a Virginia State Police MedFlight helicopter get aerial photos of the slide was delayed when the copter and crew were diverted to another emergency. Kilgore said workers hoped to get more drone-based images by Tuesday.

Sheriff’s deputies were assigned to block the road leading to the slide area Monday.

Kilgore said forecasts of little or no rain this week would help the situation.

Virginia Department of Transportation officials were tackling rain-related road damage in other areas of Southwest Virginia on Monday.

VDOT Bristol District spokesperson Michelle Earl said Monday that southbound U.S. 23 near mile marker 41 in Norton showed signs Monday of cracking and dipping on the shoulder pavement, while the route saw similar damage at mile marker 51 in the Indian Creek area between Wise and Pound.

Crews were expected to start repairs with stone and cold-mix patching material Monday, Earl said, and to continue with hot-mix asphalt Tuesday. Both areas have had one lane closed in the damaged areas.

Earl said other damage or closures in Wise County included:

Route 333 Bold Camp Road, which was washed out

Route 612 Ratcliffe Road

775 Bill Dean Road

In Lee County, Earl said five roads saw damage or closure Monday:

Route. 833

Route 656 Shannon Evans Road

Route 604

Route 648

Route. 660

“We’re waiting for waters to recede from many of those roads before we can assess what needs to be done,” Earl said.

Scott County saw the greatest number of roads closed or damaged in the three far western counties with as many as 27 still closed on Monday, Earl said. Those included Copper Creek Road, Route 65 in Clinchport and Route 73 Island View Circle.

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