‘Clutts Cliffs’ area a safety hazard

Stanley Sturgill Contributing Writer

February 28, 2014

Recently I left my home in Lynch to travel to our nearest grocery store located in Cumberland. As I traveled along highway 160 and crossed the bridge into the Clutts section of Cumberland I was immediately startled as to what I was seeing as I traveled under the Clutts Cliffs section of road.

For those that may not remember, the “Clutts Cliff” area, or north side of the mountain, burned in an underground coal mine for several years before it was finally extinguished many years ago. This area of highway is also plagued with enormous overhanging cliffs of broken sandstone protruding rocks. This rock, at times freezes and breaks or becomes too wet to the point it deteriorates, falls to the only place it has to go, which, unfortunately is onto highway 160. I’ve seen ice icicles as big as cars fall off the cliffs and burst in the road in front of vehicles. I’ve also seen some vehicles damaged by the falling ice and bursting sand rock falling from this area.

Getting back to being startled, just as I was traveling west under the Clutts Cliffs I saw smaller pieces of rock breaking off ahead of me and falling across the road. At the same time I was also meeting a Harlan County school bus with children aboard traveling east toward Benham. Now this is when I became scared, not because of me, but because of the children on that bus. This is something these children and bus drivers must do at least twice each day. When you see this area and see the huge rocks that have already fallen and have been pushed over to the side or pushed into the creek it’s actually scary looking. Take a close look the next time you drive through this short span of highway. Notice all the burst, leaning, and hanging tons of huge rock that everyone must pass under no matter, going east or west. Then think about it and how it is really frightening to think of what could result if it continues to fall and nothing is done to stop it.

Many years ago a construction company worked on the cliff area, but did not solve the real problems to keep the large boulders from falling. I’m not an engineer, especially a highway planning engineer, but I do know that something must be done to this area and done soon, before Clutts becomes top news on CNN or the other news channels.

The entire road may need to be rerouted through the town of Clutts or the whole mountain side taken off and cut into step up benches like you see on some of our other highways.

I have thought about contacting my state legislators, but now days I’m not even sure who they are. They change the political district map so often it’s about impossible to tell which is which until you go to vote. I guess they like it this way, so the voters won’t aggravate them.

One thing I would like to see happen is the representatives that are responsible for the stretch of highway 160 at Clutts, Kentucky see this and realizes he/she is the person that would have this on their mind if a tragedy were to occur from the cliff rocks falling off on someone.

Like I said I’m no highway engineer, but something must be done for everyone’s safety that travels through this area, especially the many school bus loads of children.