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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Oregon County awaits word on disaster money

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Despite more than 20 inches of rain in two weeks, the state Route Y bridge near Billmore (being replaced by the state) is set to be open this week. Four paved county roads remain closed because of high water. Repairs are under way. Photo by Linda Greer
With Oregon County's road graders, backhoes and dump trucks working overtime to fix dozens of low-water crossings washed out by heavy rains the past two weeks, county leaders are wondering when federal aid will arrive.

"I wish they'd hurry up and get here," Southern Commissioner John Wrenfrow said Monday, May 9, of federal disaster inspectors.

Presiding Commissioner Patrick Ledgerwood said, since the rains began April 23 (eventually dumping more than 20 inches of rain within 15 days), county crews have repaired -- and repaired again -- many of the county's 560 miles of gravel roads to keep them passable.

The worst damage was at low-water crossings and the base of bridges where strong currents bored deep holes into the road.

"We're going to have to haul a lot of dirt," Wrenfrow said.

Other problem roads include those built alongside creek beds or atop "crawdad dirt," a sort of black gumbo.

As of Monday afternoon, May 9, only two county roads --221 in the Bonds community and 248 in Rose Hill -- remained impassable in the southern half of the county. Road 221 was still closed Tuesday with water across the roadway.

Northern Commissioner Edward Casey also reported two roads closed yet on Tuesday -- roads 155 and 156 -- in the northeastern part of the county near the Shannon County line.

Repairs there will not begin until after Hurricane Creek recedes.

"We have to wait for the creek to go down before we know what we've got," Casey said.

Ledgerwood said road crews concentrated first on making roads passable when the rains stopped, and will now go back through to "fix everything right" and begin grading.

Part of the challenge, Ledgerwood said, is that in several instances, crews had just finished repairing damage when the rain started again, washing away their work.

"It's been a challenge," Ledgerwood said.

Most county roads are graded twice a year, although heavily traveled roads and those prone to washing, are graded more often.

Commissioners said they could not yet estimate the additional costs to the county for road repairs this spring.

"There are just too many unknowns still underwater," Wrenfrow said.

Last week, Gov. Jay Nixon sought a federal disaster declaration for 38 counties and the city of St. Louis impacted by severe flooding, high winds and tornadoes.

Nixon also declared a state of emergency April 22, allowing the National Guard, Missouri Highway Patrol and State Emergency Management Agency to help local authorities with damage control.

Ledgerwood said agents from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will tour the county sometime this week to assess damage, although a date has not been set.

"If we don't get some financial help, this is going to put us in a bad bind," Wrenfrow said. "Revenue already is scarce."

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