DeKalb County Declares Landslide as Emergency

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FORT PAYNE, Ala. (WHNT) -- The DeKalb County Commission passed a resolution Tuesday to officially declare an emergency for the landslide on County Road 78.

County officials said the declaration should allow them to begin repair work as early as the first week of February and hope to have it complete by April.

A 200 foot long section of the shoulder of the road up Lookout Mountain continues to split and drop after a landslide began early January 16.

"We could see it gradually shifting down and so as we saw that, our emergency crews shut down the traffic on the road and then it fell some more so we were fortunate we did catch it when we did," commission president Ricky Harcrow said.

Some sections of the earth fell four to six more inches since Monday, and at a few points, the drop off is more than a foot down.

Landslide Water Bottle

DeKalb County engineer Ben Luther said the shoulders of roads on the mountain passes have been problems over the years, and this was likely to happen eventually.

Heavy rainfall in the past two weeks waterlogged cracks and weighed the earth down.

"We're lucky... as we've got 18 mountain gaps that we have to deal with in the county and as much rain as we've had to deal with in the last several days we're just blessed that there's no more than one that's started to slide," Harcrow said.

The commission also passed a resolution to expedite contracting a repair team.

They are likely to use a company working just a couple miles away on Highway 35.

It is currently limited to one lane as crews fix a similar issue, to prevent future landslides.

"We think because of the emergency process that we can proceed very quickly with getting these people here to do the work," Harcrow said about the declarations.

"They're really the only people that do it."

Landslide 7

Four years ago, there was a similar landslide on Sylvania Gap which took a year to fix.

Disaster funding from FEMA helped cover the $500,000 cost, and Harcrow said the county continues to receive reimbursement checks, including one that arrived last week.

"There's no FEMA funding in this [landslide], as it's not a declared disaster or anything, but it is an emergency and we're going to have to absorb the cost," he said.

However, Harcrow said the county can afford it, and use some of their rainy day fund money to fix this recent problem caused by several extremely rainy days.

"We've got the resources to do that and we will do it as quickly as we can," Harcrow said.

"We probably are one of the more blessed counties in the state as far as finances are concerned.  It's not that we've got all the money that we want to do anything with but we are not in dire financial straits and I'm proud of that because I've been part of that financial situation for all these years," the long-time county commissioner said.

County engineer Luther said he hopes repair work will take about two months.

Before they can start, Luther said they will have to move power lines along the road.

There are also telephone and cable lines along the route, and Luther said he will meet with officials from those companies Thursday morning to plan the adjustments to be made.

Landslide 8