Mud mires road repairs
LaGRANGE — Road repair crews hit a snag early this week while fixing a culvert destroyed by flooding last month.
Part of Towns Road’s 1300 block was washed away after more than 15 inches of rain deluged the county in late December, causing more than $1 million in damage.
Work carried on through the night Monday as laborers used portable generators to illuminate a 30-foot ditch where Shoal Creek once passed under Towns Road, said James Emery, county roads engineer.
Flooding completely washed away two former corrugated metal drain pipes, along with the road above them.
Muddy conditions challenged workers and their heavy equipment as the threat of more rain loomed Tuesday evening.
“For the first few feet, it’s solid dirt,” Emery said of the ground. “But after that, it’s extremely soft, thin mud. I’ve never seen anything like it — I’ve never seen so much mud.”
The best efforts of engineers didn’t come without set backs.
A 30-ton excavator being used to move rock and soil into place for two new drain pipe sunk several feet into the mud mid-afternoon Monday. Tuesday morning, crews worked to pump away water and place dirt in an effort to free the machinery.
Workers had to pile truckloads of football-sized rocks and use bulldozers to create a special road to reach the stuck excavator. The machine was eventually removed from the ditch on its own power late Tuesday, just before evening rains moved in, Emery said.
That wasn’t the only problem.
A large crane slated to be used for lowering several 8-foot sections of concrete drain pipes was working close to a high-tension power line, causing workers to have to take additional safety measures.
Emery explained static electricity in the air caused the crane to become slightly electrified, giving a slight shock to anyone who touched it.
Towns Road is one of eight roads that remain partially or completely closed after late December’s flood.
Officials estimate the damage to area roads at more than $1.4 million and the state is assisting the county in making repairs.
Visit www.lagrangenews.com/flood for updates on road closures and other flood-related info.