Slides a danger for local travelers

Published 11:35 am Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Harlan Countians are facing dangerous road conditions after various rock and mudslides damaged portions of U.S. 421 and KY 987. Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley said last year’s flooding in February combined with recent heavy rainfall have caused significant issues.

A portion of U.S. 421 along Pine Mountain has deteriorated rapidly over the past week. Several problems with this roadway have Bledsoe locals concerned, even sparking a petition started by Amber Brock to have the road restored in a timely manner.

Bledsoe resident Sheila Hensley also expressed her concern for the safety of fellow drivers traveling the mountain.

“My family and I cross the mountain several times a day, and it’s a major safety concern. It’s destroying our vehicles,” Hensley said. “If that mountain breaks off while passing (through), it’s going to be a bad accident that could have been prevented.”

Due to the slides, the Harlan County School District canceled classes Monday because of safety concerns.

Crews working to stabilize the roads have provided caution barrels and traffic lights to direct vehicles, including what Mosley described as a “Band-Aid” approach to temporarily fix patches of the road until asphalt season starts in April.

Slides across the mountain have also affected Black Mountain Utility District customers. Because of the slides, waterlines have been pulled apart. BMUD continues to pump water to its customers until crews are able to properly fix the lines. Crews plan to encase the pipes in concrete to provide a more permanent fix, beginning March 4.

Another area of the county recently impacted by the slides is KY 987 in the Smith area. The slide has reduced the road to one lane, but Mosley says highway officials have not yet identified how to address the situation.

Local resident Darian White said the road could be a safety problem.

“We are concerned that if someone were to drive over the blacktop, which had become wavy like a rollercoaster, it would collapse,” White said.

Other problem areas in the county include KY 72 and KY 38. Mosley said these areas are staffed as needed and added that he expects KY 72 to be cleaned up within the next two weeks. However, for construction to really begin, Mosley says the county needs a period of dry weather for crews to be able to accomplish what they need. Roads may not receive fresh blacktop until asphalt season in April later this year.