Howard Gap Rd. bridge will take “months to repair”

Published 1:23 pm Wednesday, June 21, 2023

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Bridge collapses Tuesday morning after heavy rains swell N. Pacolet River

TRYON–On Tuesday morning, the first bridge on Howard Gap Rd. from Lynn Rd. collapsed after an early morning deluge caused the river that flows beneath it to reach almost 15 feet.

Officials with the NCDOT said that the bridge is expected to take “months to repair.” Howard Gap Rd. is currently closed to through traffic, with a one-mile detour in place.

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The water level for the North Pacolet River under the bridge is normally around 1.5 feet.

“As the waters go down and it continues to churn, it could become more dangerous,” said Mark Hill, NCDOT’s Division 14 bridge maintenance engineer. “There’s a potential that the footing has been scoured so we will have to basically move the bad material refill it in and fix it up. From there we might have to start from basically square one.”

Wednesday morning, the pavement on the bridge appears to have sunken further, with a crack beginning on the opposite side of the bridge.

Crews spent much of Tuesday traveling throughout Polk County, assessing the damage from the rain and locating areas of flood concerns.

Polk County’s Emergency Management Director and Fire Marshal Bobby Arledge reminded residents to stay off the roads if possible.

“If you don’t need to be out, please don’t,” says Arledge. “If you do, be very careful because flooding water can happen very quickly, especially with all the rain we’ve had. It doesn’t take much more to cause flooding.”

Damage to the bridge on Howard Gap Rd. is expected to take months to repair. (Photo by Sydney Wilkie)

With rain continuing Wednesday morning and more in the forecast, Polk County’s emergency management team met with the National Weather Service on Tuesday to plan for more potential flooding.

Floodwaters washed away some of the foundation supporting one side of Holbert Cove Rd. in Saluda, and there were reports that a bridge on Pearson’s Falls Rd. was in danger of failing. Crews have identified other areas of concern, including Warrior Drive in Tryon, which is part of the detour used for Howard Gap Rd. where the bridge failed on Tuesday.

As of Wednesday morning, all of Polk County remains under a Flood Watch Advisory, as waves of heavy rain fell overnight and more is expected in the coming days.


An overhead view of the collapsed bridge on Howard Gap Rd. (Photo by Steve Burney)