'Massive' landslide has NC-9 closed near Bat Cave; could take months to clear
A massive landslide in Bat Cave, about a mile north of the junction of 74-A and Highway 9, has NC-9 closed at this time.
Geologists with the Department of Transportation (DOT) are on scene right now, but crews say they have not been able to begin debris removal yet.
At this time, officials are saying it will be at least a couple of months before the road is completely cleared.
“We'll get a contractor in here and once we determine a plan out GEO Tech unit is on site now in the woods looking at the area and when they come back. It's unknown at this point how we'll tackle this except we know we'll use a contractor,” DOT engineer Roger Ayers said.
Officials tell News 13 there are thousands of tons of trees and debris on the road.
Early estimates figure that the slide broke free from the hill between 600 and 800 feet above the road between Minnehaha Drive and Old Fort Loop around 4 a.m.
The highway is closed at Shumont Road — the Henderson/Buncombe county line — on the north side and at U.S. 74A on the south side. Nearly 100 feet of the highway is covered in mud, dirt, trees and other debris.
The slide itself happened at around 4 a.m. Tuesday morning. Right now, officials say they estimate the debris is about 20 feet high and 30 feet wide.
News 13 asked crews if there was any concern that anyone could have been driving on the road when the slide happened. We were told the fire department has been on scene, evaluating the area, and they do not believe anyone was in the path of the landslide when it let go. However, they will not be able to say the with complete certainty until the debris can be moved.
“The fire department has checked. They don’t think so. But we’re not 100 percent certain of what’s underneath that. It’s unsafe for us to be able in go there and see ourselves right now,” Ayers said.
There are residents who live on the other side of what is now a wall of debris on the road. They will have to take a pretty long detour to get anywhere, with the trip now going into Buncombe County and back to Black Mountain to get out of the area.
A 50-mile detour — safe for trucks and large vehicles — takes northbound drivers up U.S. 74 to Interstate 40 to Exit 64 and N.C. 9 south. Southbound drivers need to take N.C. 9 north to I-40, then Exit 53A to U.S. 74A and back up N.C. 9.
Motorists are urged to drive with caution, slow down in work zones and plan extra time into their trips for delays.