TDOT Says Lookout Boulder That Came Loose From Bluff Has Not Increased Likelihood Of More Falling

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Tennessee Department of Transportation geotechnical specialist says he does not believe that the recent fall of a boulder from a Lookout Mountain bluff has increased the chances that more will come down from near the same location.

However, Mike Perkins of the TDOT Geotechnical Engineering Section said even large boulders have tumbled down the mountain before and will likely do in the future from various areas of the bluff.

The boulder he examined came down on Dec. 31 and lodged on the Hardy Trail just above Scenic Highway.

Jennifer Flynn of TDOT said, "Mr. Perkins’ visual observation of the site indicated that a mass of sandstone was released from the base of the bluff above the trail. Several blocks of sandstone, including an approximately 12’ by 12’ by 10’ block, reached the elevation of the walking trail.

"This large block appears to be embedded approximately three feet into the trail surface. According to Mr. Perkins, there is currently no potential for this block to continue downslope into the existing roadway.

"Visual observation of the bluff from the walking trail revealed numerous overhangs and blocks of material with the potential to move material downslope. Observation along the existing roadway to the base of the mountain revealed numerous instances in the past where material released from the bluff has reached or passed the existing roadway, with many of the block sizes being significantly larger than the block located on the walking trail.

"It is the opinion of the Geotechnical Engineering Section that this rockfall event has not increased the overall risk of rockfall currently associated with this area, nor has it altered the consequences of such an event.

"Basically, to sum up Mr. Perkins’ findings, there is no immediate threat to the roadway, and rockfalls like this have happened in the past and may happen again.

"Our regional staff will discuss the situation further with Mr. Perkins, the National Park Service and the Lookout Mountain Conservancy to explore any future options regarding the large boulder and the area in general."

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