By Brooke Stevenson
A Pigeon Forge transportation worker was injured while clearing a stretch of road that was closed by a rockslide in the Smokies on Jan. 25.
According to Great Smoky Mountains National Park Spokeswoman Nancy Gray, the first rockslide occurred at 3:30 p.m. in the section of Hwy. 441 known as the “Spur” that leads from Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg.
The transportation worker, whose name has not been released, sustained a head injury when debris fell on him during a secondary rock slide.
He was transported to UT Medical Center and his condition was not immediately released.
The initial rockslide closed down a portion of the spur which is owned by the city of Pigeon Forge and the second slide occurred as crews attempted to clear the debris.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation and Pigeon Forge are responsible for the clean up efforts.
“It’s complicated because the ‘spur’ is in park ownership, maintained and operated,” Gray said. “But there is a small section of roadway that is owned by Pigeon Forge and that is where the slide occurred.”
Gray said southbound traffic will be directed onto the northbound side of the highway.
“The park set up a detour with signs and cones on Monday,” Gray said. “The detour is running smoothly and can accept tractor trailers.”
GSMNP Management Assistant Bob Miller said while the detour around the rockslide area has been evaluated, motorists should still use caution.
“Oversized vehicles are an uncertainty at this point,” he said. “We are all lucky this happened on a January Monday rather than a Rod Run Friday.”
TDOT will need to obtain an emergency contract to stabilize the portion of the mountainside that gave way.
Early Tuesday morning TDOT geotechnical engineers inspected the rockslide site and determined that the mountainside is still very unstable and additional work must be completed to stabilize the slope before the roadway can be reopened to traffic.
Currently TDOT believes the roadway could potentially be closed for more than a month.
Crews were on site Tuesday removing additional debris in order to get a closer look at the slide area.
More details on the amount of work needed to be done and an estimated timeline for the reopening of the Spur will be released by TDOT once the extent of the repair needed is determined.
Traffic is currently being detoured around the slide with the northbound Highway 441 lanes accommodating both north and southbound traffic.
Motorists should use extreme caution while passing through the detour area.
Rockslide Causes Injury, Lane Closures
By Brooke Stevenson