Families escape mudslide, major road closed

NEWTON, NC (WBTV) - A 100-foot section of Highway 194 collapsed on Monday night, sending a fifty foot wall of mud more than a hundred yards down a hillside.

Officials say weeks of heavy rain had weakened the ground underneath the road and the entire section just gave way.

In the path of the mud downhill stood three homes. Two were destroyed, the third was within feet of being hit by the moving earth.  Inside the two homes that were destroyed were two families.

"We saw a flash of light," said Robby Bailey. He thinks it was a transformer burning up. "Then we heard something that sounded like a transfer truck coming down the hill." It wasn't a truck. It was the mud.

"The house was shaking," said Robby's wife Heather. Robby said he told Heather to get their daughter and run. They got out quickly, though Robby had to crawl part of the way.

They climbed up a creek bank and made it to safety as rocks and mud tumbled past them.  At the same time, Robby's brother Charles was inside his own home nearby and felt it moving as the mud pushed it.

"It stopped for a moment and we jumped out and then more mud came and moved it downhill," he said. That's when he heard the home breaking apart. On Tuesday morning, despite small sections of the hillside still crumbling 300 feet above them, both families tried to salvage important papers and other items from the wreckage.

They didn't stay long out of fear of what else could fall from the hillside above them. Robby climbed under the rubble of one wall and found his cell phone.

"It still works and the glass is not even cracked," he said with a smile. Unfortunately most of his other belongings, including his truck and an SUV were destroyed. "It's all under the mud now." The families are staying with relatives until they can find another place to live.

As for the highway, it will be closed for some time say officials. They want the section of highway that's left to stabilize before determining what repairs will be needed.

Large cracks indicate that more of the pavement and the hillside could fall at anytime. One thing officials say could make the situation worse would be if more rain hit the troubled spot.

Tuesday evening, a strong thunderstorm passed through the area.

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