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Expert: Rain in forecast leads to increasing chances for landslide

UT Geology Professor Dr. Bob Hatcher says there are favorable landslide conditions in East Tennessee this week.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A UT Geology professor says that the rainfall that we could see this week could be a trigger for more rock slides.

"Weather increases the chances by putting an abnormal amount of water in the soil and rock," Dr. Bob Hatcher said.

Hatcher says all the recent and upcoming rain will make rock slides more likely.

He says rocks can become overloaded with weight from the water.

"There's somewhat of a buoying effect with water, and so you get the bit of buoyancy and then the additional weight, and that overloads the slope," Hatcher said.

It's happened many times on major roads in East Tennessee over the years.

That includes slides on I-75 in Campbell County in 2016 and I-40 just over the North Carolina border in 2009.

RELATED: One lane of I-75 North reopens in Campbell County

We also saw slides earlier this month on State Route 66 at the Hancock/Hawkins County line, and in Anderson County on State Route 116.

RELATED: One lane of SR 116 in Anderson Co. opened after landslide; SR 66 is reopened after repairs

RELATED: Project to cut rock slide risk almost done

Hatcher says TDOT uses a few different techniques to limit the slides.

"I know that they work all the time to try to identify areas that may have potential for landslides, and they go in and try to remove material, bench a road cut, put in high-tech fencing to catch boulders," Hatcher said.

Hatcher says they then remove as much rock and loose materials as possible, then reinforce the area.

"They go back and drill into the solid material that's fractured...they put 20 or 30 foot bolts in there," Hatcher said.

Hatcher says he knows many of the geologists that work with TDOT, and says while rock slides are hard to predict, they're always working hard to make sure everyone stays safe.