GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN, NC – A rockslide occurred during the late hours of March 17 inside the scenic attraction at Grandfather Mountain. The slide was discovered on the lower half of the Mountain just before midnight by a security officer.
Large slabs of rock slid down from the hillside and covered the main road just below the Split Rock and the Sphinx Rock. Heavy equipment was used the morning of March 18 to move two of the boulders and open up the road to one-way traffic.
“Seeing a rockslide this time of the year is not a big surprise,” said Kate Scharer, geology professor at Appalachian State University in Boone. “Small ones can be seen along many roadsides in the High Country right now.”
The slab-like shape of the rock pieces reflects the foliation, or metamorphic layering, in the rock. The foliation is typically the weak part of the rock, a result of the original deposition and subsequent metamorphism of the rock.
Scharer thinks that the rough winter is probably to blame. With the Mountain experiencing a deep freeze over the past months, ice most likely formed in the cracks causing the rocks to loosen along the foliation. These last few weeks of warmer temperatures and heavy rains melted the ice, and all that was left was for gravity to do the rest and create the slide.
Grandfather Mountain remained open to visitors on Thursday, with employees directing traffic around the debris. A crew will be brought in to dynamite the large boulders that still remain on and near the road.
Grandfather Mountain is a 600-acre scenic attraction and nature preserve located near Linville, NC on US Highway 221, one mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 305. For more information phone 800-468-7325 or visit www.grandfather.com.
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