Due to heavy rainfall last week, a portion of Jones Mountain Road washed away during a mudslide. Pickens crews were on the scene Friday taking note of many trees that had slid down the hill, wiping out the hillside and a water main.
Damon Howell / Photo
A landslide from the frequent heavy rains over the past week took down trees, earth and a portion of Jones Mountain Road Friday, closing it for at least a month and likely longer.
Commission Chair Rob Jones said, “When the trees gave way, it took out everything.”
No homes are in the section where the landslide occurred but a water line running beside the road was ripped apart. The county was originally alerted to trees down in the road, but when crews arrived, they saw the extent of the damage and immediately closed the route.
Detours have been designated, but rely on narrow, gravel lanes. Jones Mountain or Yukon Road (as it’s called in Gilmer County) is often used as an alternate route from Jasper to Ellijay, but until the road is fixed, travelers are asked to use Highway 5 or detour through Talking Rock on Highway 136. Commission Chair Rob Jones emphasized that the narrow detours going around the damaged section of Jones Mountain are primarily for people who live in that area.
When asked why this one section of road gave way with so many steep banks in the county, Public Works Director Kim Quinton said a surprising amount of water was found flowing under the decimated road. Quinton said this will present a challenge in rebuilding as they must first ascertain the source of the water and then be sure it is permanently diverted.
There are several small streams in the area flowing underneath the road in culverts. Quinton suspected a culvert that crosses the road uphill of the damaged section had failed and that water was running through rock seams beneath the road and saturating the supporting banks.
He said the ground was thoroughly saturated, but now that the rain water has receded some, they can get a better idea of what the stream flows are doing.
So much earth was lost downslope in the landslide that Jones said it will not be a repair job, but a rebuilding job.
“We will have to take the rest of the road down and then rebuild the whole area,” he said. At least 500 loads of additional earth will be required to rebuild the slope based on early estimates.
The work to reopen the road will take at least a month but that depends on the weather – the source of the original problem.
“It’s a minimum of one month and that’s only if the weather gives us a break,” Jones said.
The commission chair expects this one project will have a significant impact on the county’s general fund budget but didn’t have any cost projection at this point. Jones said they will document all expenses closely but will only be eligible for state or federal reimbursements if a disaster were declared by the state regarding the heavy rains.
“We are getting 100 year floods, every three years,” he said.
Jones said the top priority effort to open this road will deal a setback to other spring work.
“We are going to put everyone on this until it is done, but it has really kicked us in the backside [with existing plans],” Jones said.
The county will meet Wednesday with a private company specializing in this type of work who comes highly recommended by state transportation officials. Jones said they are staging for county crews to begin work immediately, but this could change if the private company has a better option to handle the flowing water.
Other rain problems:
•County crews were expected to finish work re-opening Dean Trail Road in west Pickens late Tuesday or early Wednesday. This road was closed after three older, smaller culverts failed during the heavy rains. The three will be replaced by one large culvert.
• Brandon Douglas, the city manager for Jasper, confirmed that city crews have done some patch work filling an area on Camp Road, near the Bargain Barn, that was washed out in the heavy rains. He said this road will be discussed at the city council work session this week.
Douglas said the city had been fortunate to avoid most of the damage seen in other areas due to the rains.