The bridge on Peru Olena Road, between Old State and New State roads, in Bronson Township is missing, washed away by the heavy flooding that occurred on June 20. The road has been closed since that afternoon when Huron County engineer employees watched the waters wash it the bridge away. County Engineer Lee Tansey said it was a very fortunate thing they had been there at the time, that it was daylight when it happened and that the department was able to get the road closed before anyone was injured or anything more was damaged.
“The high water washed everything out,” he said. “The heavy water at that time just overtook it. ... We’re not entirely sure what caused it (to happen). Was it a fluke? Did a log hit it? Was there multiple things that compounded to have caused it — making it something that we never could have prevented? We don’t know. But we do have design processes in place to avoid these sorts of things.”
He said every year when new bridges are built, the process is reevaluated to make the bridges stronger, safer and better able to withstand storms and the elements. Tansey, who was on vacation at the time of the interview, wasn’t sure off-hand when the Peru Olena bridge was built, but guessed it to be in the 1970s.
He said this sort of situation “doesn’t happen very often,” but in most cases, he said it’s “like a tornado.” The engineers do their best to make the bridge as safe as possible, but it’s impossible to make the bridge full-proof against rushing flood waters.
Unfortunately, like most emergency expenditures, the expense was an unplanned one. Tansey said the county engineer’s office is trained to be able to do the work themselves in building constructing a new bridge, but he estimates the project will still cost between $50,000 and $70,000.
“And that’s with doing the work ourselves,” he said. “It would be even more if we had to hire it out.”
Tansey said the office is working on applying for funds that will help to cover the expense, if they’re awarded. He said regardless of whether the emergency reimbursement money comes through though, something needs done.
“There are funds available for things that happen like this — emergency funds,” he said Thursday.
“We’ve started the application process on that ... and we’ve already got the ball rolling. It’s only been seven days but we’re scrambling trying to get things together. Our goal is to be out there July 8 to start excavating. That’s subject to change. If everything goes well though, we could have it open in eight to 12 weeks. Hopefully the funding goes though and we’ll be able to get some reimbursement because when something like this happens it’s unplanned.”
Tansey said either way though, he realizes the road cannot remain closed and said he’s “going to do whatever’s needed to get it open.”
The engineer noted that he was at least grateful that was the only major issue in the county that occurred as a result of the flooding last week.
“There were also multiple other smaller issues, but nothing of this magnitude,” he said. “This was the only closure in the county. Everything else was re-opened by the next day or within a few hours. We had everyone in the office out (responding to the flooding). That was good at least.”