Massive mudslide shuts down Highway 221 in Ashe County

ASHE COUNTY, N.C. — Heavy rain caused a mudslide that shut down a major highway in the North Carolina High Country.

Highway 221 in Ashe County was closed for more than 12 hours Thursday.

Wednesday’s rainfall added up in the mountains as the precipitation in some areas approached 5 inches.

A man driving through the area told Channel 9 he saw the mudslide around 2 a.m. and avoided going off the road.

Road crews allowed Channel 9’s camera to go right up to the slide that took out a section of the shoulder and part of one lane of traffic along Highway 221 in the Fleetwood community.

The highway is one of the major roads through Ashe County leading to towns like West Jefferson.

A 12-mile section of Highway 221 is being widened from two lanes to four lanes.

Because of the work, road crews had the equipment in place to respond quickly to the slide.

Channel 9 was there as boulders were moved out of the way.

Department of Transportation officials said there are springs in the mountainside and that excessive runoff caused the section of the road to wash away.

Drivers said the shutdown forced them to go 15 to 30 minutes out of the way.

As the temperature climbed, rain showers started again.

There have been no reports of flooding in the mountains or in the foothills.

Nobody was hurt but officials said the highway would be closed indefinitely while cleanup operations were taking place.

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