Mississippi County commission hears report on flood-related road damage

Friday, May 27, 2011

CHARLESTON, Mo. -- Flooding in Mississippi County has taken a heavy toll on both state and county roads, according to county officials.

"We've been working on everything this side of the levee," Richard Wallace, county road and bridge superintendent, reported during the regular county commission meeting Thursday. "We just now have them passable."

Commissioners discussed with Wallace several of the many roads that sustained heavy damage from floodwaters.

As some places, the water was high and swift enough to be "whitecapping" over the road, according to county officials.

"Chunks of blacktop" were displaced on several roads, Commissioner Steve Jones said.

Commissioner Robert Jackson recalled noticing while traveling on Highway 77 that "part of the east lane was laying on top of the west lane."

What were depressions from heavy trucks running lengthwise in the lanes on Highway 102 are now "two gullies in that blacktop," Jones said. He said they may be deep enough that some cars will end up scraping their bottoms in the center between the two ruts.

Wallace advised commissioners that renting a bulldozer to work on county roads will cost about $6,000 per month and that he will check with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to see if it is a reimbursable expense.

While county residents were approved for FEMA's Individual Assistance Program, the county is still waiting on approval for assistance from the Public Assistance Program for its infrastructure, according to county officials. County officials estimated at the end of last week that the cost to repair infrastructure damaged by both the natural flooding and the activation of the spillway will be about $75 million, according to Jackson.

Jackson advised Wallace to continue to "document, document, document" all expenses related to the flood disaster.

This will be especially important in the spillway, he said, as some roads will have to be patched up enough to provide access to assess damage farther into the spillway.

Jones said farmers are anxious to see roads repaired as they will want to plant crops on "every inch that sticks up" above water in the spillway.

Commissioners agreed to begin working on a priority list for restoring roads in the spillway.

Wallace said he will "hit the highest points" initially.

In other business related to the road and bridge department, commissioners agreed there is no point in fixing culverts now with the river projected to come back up as the new culverts would just end up being damaged.

Wallace said that in addition to working on returning county roads to usable condition, he spent the day picking up trees and tree limbs downed by the winds of Wednesday's storm.

In other business during Thursday's meeting:

* Keith Moore, Mississippi County sheriff, said his department is still working to keep sightseers, many from out of the county and even from out of state, off the levee.

Moore noted that the levee road is restricted to authorized traffic when the water level is at 43 feet.

As some barricades blocking access to the levee road were displaced, Moore suggested that a reflective sign is needed where the levee is washed out to warn motorists, especially at night.

Many motorists do not have the experience needed to safely turn around on the levee road without getting stuck, he said.

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