UPDATE: Route 696 reopens after mudslide


2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, 2016 UPDATE:

The Virginia Department of Transportation announced that Big Branch Road (Route 696) near Abbs Valley has been reopened to traffic.  The road was closed after a massive mudslide on Wednesday.  Crew with VDOT worked to stabilize the slope and clear the roadway.

VDOT officials said there will be daytime closures over the next few days, including the weekend, to finial working along the slope area.  Drivers are asked to be an the look out for flaggers and work vehicles in the area.

A massive mudslide shuts down a road in Tazewell County.  Big Branch Road is closed in the Abbs Valley and Falls Mills area.  Crews from the Virginia Department of Transportation worked tirelessly to clear the road on Wednesday February 24, 2016.  It was reported just after 9 p.m. on Tuesday February 23, 2016.  71-year-old James Baker of Abbs Valley lives a short distance from the mudslide.  Baker said he was driving on Big Branch Road just a few minutes before it happened.  He’s counting his many blessings.

Baker said, “I feel like God looks out for me from the time my feet hits the floor until I go to bed.  He looked out for me all day long.”

According to Baker, Big Branch Road is known for mudslides.

Baker said, “This location that slid right now has slid 2 times before there 3 other locations on the same road that has slid off.”

Bill Tabor also of Abbs Valley said the road closure is adding about 10 or 15 minutes to his commute to Bluefield but, it’s nothing new to him.

Tabor said, “It’s just one of those things that happens in the spring I guess rain and a lot of snow, ground saturated.  It just gives away.”

Crews from VDOT started removing rocks and dirt at around 7 on Wednesday February 24, 2016.

The Virginia Department of Transportation Maintenance Operations Manager for Tazewell County Henry Kincer said their goal is to get the road open and make sure it’s safe to the traveling public.  He hopes to get both lanes back open by early next week.  Residents in the area are rerouting through Rt. 702 or going through Pocahontas to avoid the mudslide.

School Buses in Tazewell County were stopped by a massive mudslide on Route 696 near Abbs Valley.  David Woodard said buses on the route were delayed because they had to find another way to pick up students.

The mudslide happened on Big Branch Road (Rt. 696) at around 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016.  Crews with the Virginia Department of Transportation closed the road to traffic until the slide can be cleared.  According to Virginia511.org, the closure is expected to last until March 9, 2016 at noon.

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