COAL GROVE Workers prepared Friday for the gargantuan task of removing a boulder the size of a house that is blocking the westbound lanes of U.S. 52 just east of the twin bridges to Ashland.

Removing it probably will mean breaking it up and hauling away the fragments, according to Ohio Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kathleen Fuller.

Breaking the rock probably will require a track hoe excavator with a hydraulic hammer but it depends on how hard it is and other factors, Fuller said.

A highway department engineer is on site to assess the structure of the rock. If there are seams or natural fault lines it may break up easier, she said.

If the excavator can’t do the job, the last resort would be explosives, Fuller said.

A qualified contractor is available and the department can award an emergency contract, which means the work can start immediately.

The job may take two or more days and during that time both westbound lanes may be closed.

Eastbound traffic lanes were temporarily closed but reopened Friday morning.

Transportation department officials were still working out details, including detour routes, on Friday.

The boulder slipped from the hillside early Friday during the torrential downpour that drenched the region.

The storm also knocked down trees, including eight in Central Park alone.

Downed trees took out power lines in some locations, including Greenup County, where three schools in the county system and all schools in the Russell system lost power temporarily.

Russell schools were closed because of the outages and Greenup was on an hour delay, according to officials in each district.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at or (606) 326-2652.

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