Damaged road in Unicoi Co. could take weeks to repair, impacting residents

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UNICOI COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Clean-up and repair efforts are underway following flooding and damage from Thursday’s heavy rains.

Officials in Unicoi County who work for law enforcement as well as public works departments said they prepared for the storm at the beginning of the day but the flooding was far more intense than they imagined.

While a number of areas saw flooding, one road in Erwin now must undergo serious repairs after the storm caused a landslide and broke a portion of the pavement off along with it.

Officials with Unicoi County roads said that McInturff Springs Road is currently closed off as they work to secure and repair it. They’re using extra caution after a sinkhole opened up on the opposite side of the road, which posses even more danger in the area.

“If it caves in, those citizens up there are going to be completely blocked in so it’s going to be an iffy situation of how we’re going to get them in and out because there’s no other way except that way,” said Unicoi County Road Superintendent, Terry Haynes.

Haynes told News Channel 11 that this isn’t the first time this road has seen problems. In fact, it was repaired around this time last year due to weather-related issues as well.

However, officials said they fear that repairing the road this time around can be difficult and costly.

“Just by looking at what went off and what we’ve done so far, if we put it out for bids, it could run as high as $150,000 to build it back,” said Haynes. He said that if they can do the work themselves without submitting for bids, it could potentially cost less, but they’re still looking at a hefty price tag.

Viewer photo: Brandon Fender

Officials estimate that repairs to completely secure the integrity of the road could take up to 4 weeks and would require closures along the way.

Those closures could impact up to 60 homes in that neighborhood since McInturff road acts as the only path in and out of that neighborhood.

“My advice to them would be to get some kind of provisions for at least a couple of days to stay in so when we do start working on it, we’re going to have to close the whole road down,” said Haynes.

Haynes said they’ve already started going door to door in that area and notifying residents of the work being done on the road as well as the potential closures.

Over at ‘USA Raft Adventure Resort’ in Erwin, changes to their roadway is actually what saved them this time.

“We are really thrilled that our new road just barely had water splashing over the top of it, and it held up. So that’s new for us. We’re used to having to hike in and out,” said Owner of USA Raft Adventure Resort, Matt Moses.

Recently, the road running along the Nolichucky River was raised 5 feet. While there were concerns about the high waters, the site didn’t experience any damage besides debris washing into the area and for that, they’re thankful.

“There was concern about if we would be able to get out tomorrow, is the cabin going to get flooded away because they are literally right there on the river bank. So we addressed all of those concerns and everybody felt good and then we had a nice cozy night inside the lodge in front of the fireplace,” said Moses.

Moses said the fact that they were able to get in and out of the area with no problem allowed them to assist rescue officials with any water-based rescues.

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