A section of SH 70N in Hawkins County, Tenn., has been closed indefinitely after a mudslide occurred early Thursday morning, claiming the life of one motorist and injuring another.
Local reports indicate that the man killed was traveling south on the highway when the slide swept his vehicle 200 ft down an embankment before coming to a stop. Authorities have said the second person impacted by the slide is recovering in the hospital.
SH 70N will remain closed between S.R. 94 and Clinch Valley Road until further notice, and a detour will be in place while mitigation work is underway, according to the Tennessee DOT (TDOT). The agency's engineers are currently working to assess and repair the damage.
"We first want to express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the man who lost his life early Thursday morning,” TDOT Commissioner Clay Bright said in a statement. “TDOT staff is working around the clock to develop a set of design plans to address this large slide. We plan to have an emergency contract in place by the end of next week, and will make every effort to reopen Highway 70 North as quickly as we can safely do so.”
According to TDOT, slides and rockfalls are common in Middle and East Tennessee. Common triggers for these events are extended periods of wet weather and/or the freezing and thawing of water. The landslides typically occur in winter and early spring. The department budgets $3 million annually to address rockfall and slide issues, and often seeks federal disaster assistance to assist in covering the cost of major slides or rockfalls. Just in the month of February, at least nine slides have impacted state highways in parts of East Tennessee.
Source: Tennessee DOT / 105.7News