The Franklin County public works department was already behind in making repairs to county roads before this week’s rain.
Now that list of road work has piled even higher. David Lee, county public works director, said crews will tackle the situation the best it can.
“It is not a good situation out there right now,” Lee said. “We recognize that. If folks will allow us, we will try to make these improvements over the coming months.
“They have been dealing with those issues and now the flood damage on top of that. We don’t like it ourselves.”
Lee said this has been an unusual wet pattern, which has been hard on all the roads — gravel and hard surface.
“It is a big county with well over a thousand miles of road, which means we have over 2,000 miles of right-a-way to maintain with a relatively small staff,” Lee said. “They work diligently and they work hard. It takes time to get around to all these issues.”
Lee said before the rains this week, the county was making head way into filling pot holes and spreading gravel.
“There are a number of areas where we were gaining traction on,” Lee said. “We were working to get those roads improved. Now, we got some additional issues. Some of the work we had conducted is lost. We will get right back at it and get things taken care of as quickly as we possibly can. They were out early [Thursday] morning working on that stuff and continue to do so.”
He said flood water may have damaged roads that were impassable this week.
“Now the situation — with the amount of rain we have had and the water flowing down the roads — we have bigger issues to address now,” Lee said. “Many of the roads that were under water have a little bit of damage, so we have folks getting them repaired — at least to make them passable — then we will come back and make permanent repairs once it dries up a little bit. We are still dealing with frost boils from the winter. We always have drainage issues along the roads that we continually work on.”
Lee said county crews worked around the clock from Tuesday night into Thursday monitoring county roads to keep the public safe. After the first round of rain, there were 37 locations that experienced flooding, Lee said.
“We had every available flood ahead sign with lights on them, they were all deployed,” Lee said. “Many of our barricades warning of flood zones ahead were deployed. We had crews out until about 1:30 a.m. or so Wednesday morning monitoring everything. Then they came back in early Wednesday morning, 5:30 or 6 a.m., and started doing the same thing. Many of those locations that were experiencing flooding Tuesday night, those flood waters receded. As the Marais des Cygnes River and the Pottawatomie approached their peak flow, we began experiencing flooding in other areas. Many of those areas have now receded, but we still have a number of areas [Thursday afternoon] that still have water on the roads and are impassable.”
Lee said most of the roads should be free of flood water and open by Saturday.
“I would encourage people to avoid driving through any amount of water,” he said. “You never know where the bottom is in those situations.”
Lee said crews quickly jumped on areas that historically have flood issues.
“We have most of the signage is in place to mark these areas,” he said. “The trick is when they need additional barricades and that sort of thing. You seem to be always chasing those locations because the water backs up and then it recedes. When you have 30-plus different locations all over the county, it is impossible to be everywhere at once. Our folks do a pretty good job of being where they need to be. It is a tall order to take care of all these areas.”
Lee said roads in all parts of the county were effected by the storms.
“I would not say that there is any one particularly one area that is worse than another,” Lee said. “It is not always what happens here in the county because these rivers and creeks flow through our county, so what happens east and north affect us.
“I have a picture of a fish swimming across one of our roads. It is quite interesting. Whether it is winter, summer, fall or spring, we are at the mercy of mother nature. We try to make things safe as possible and provide as much warning as we can. Then we deal with the aftermath.”