On Friday night, a mudslide thundered across Rich Cove Road in Maggie Valley, taking out a section of a guardrail and bending a drainage pipe in its path, causing water to flow alongside the road and collect at the bottom.
The landslide deposited a significant amount of mud at two spots on the road and downed several trees across other parts.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s chief priority will be to restore a “primitive road condition” to allow temporary access for residents and repair efforts, according to Joel Setzer, who heads the regional DOT division. But the DOT isn’t prepared to begin work right away.
“We’ll have to wait for some drier weather before we make an effort,” said Setzer. “Full restoration of the road will have to be done later on.”
According to Setzer, the DOT faces a Catch-22 when it comes to the water that’s been diverted by the mudslide. If left alone, the water will continue flowing out of its established path and damage the road and some houses, but if it’s redirected to its usual flow pattern, it will “add water to an already saturated, muddy mess,” said Setzer.
While the DOT normally reflows the water to its established path, it faces a quandary with the latest mudslide.
“We’re looking for direction on what is the best thing to do and the overall public good,” said Setzer. “It’s a tough situation, but it’s going to require some aggressive emergency management.”