Melting snow and thawing frost below the road surface are tearing up county roads and making them dangerous, forcing Ellis County Public Works Director Bill Ring Sr. to close some.
“Mud, water over the roads,” are two of the big problems, said Ring on Monday evening, gesturing to show water depths from eight inches to a couple feet. “Some we’ve got this much water, and some we’ve got this much water. So those roads are closed if it looks like it could be dangerous.”
Ring made the comments after updating the Ellis County Commissioners at their regular Monday meeting in the Ellis County Administrative Center, 718 Main St.
“We’ve been very busy both Saturday and Sunday,” Ring told the commissioners. He’s advising people to take their time in the county. “Know that there are many county roads that are closed. There are many that are coned off because one lane may be washed out.”
“And likely we’re asking for as much patience as we can get from the public?” asked County Commissioner Dustin Roths.
“Absolutely,” said Ring. Law enforcement dispatch and emergency responders have been notified as to which roads are closed, he said.
And now there’s a couple more inches of rain in the forecast.
“That’s not going to be helpful,” Ring said. “It’s been all hands on deck at the shop, getting out and trying to respond to all the phone calls, text messages, dispatch calls.”
With many roads muddy and covered with water, Ring warned that people will get stuck or slide off the road, and cars will get muddy or could high-center.
Among closings, is where 150the Avenue and Munjor Road intersect, southwest of Hays. The whole road is gone, he said, leaving a huge hole from snowmelt coming off fields.
Likewise, Ring closed 210th Avenue between Old U.S. Highway 40 and Golf Course Road.
“It’s too dangerous,” Ring said. “There’s no road left, it’s completely washed away. It’s all from the snowmelt coming from the fields. We can’t control what comes out of the farmer’s field.”
Up by the landfill north of Hays, Ring said much of the road is gone, exposing culverts alongside the road and leaving an eight-foot ditch.
Thawing ice below the road surface is also causing problems. The county’s rock and sand roads have soaked up moisture about a foot deep. The moisture froze, and now it’s melting.
Pointing to a picture on his phone, Ring showed frost a foot deep on one county road.
“See how much moisture is in the rock and the dirt? When the frost breaks, that all turns to water, and the dirt becomes mush, and then it starts to break the road away,” he said.
High water is also a problem, especially for little cars, said Ring, citing ‘turn around don’t drown.’
“These little Japanese cars, they have a pan, and if they drive into that, they’ve only got this much clearance from the bottom,” he said, gesturing to indicate about a foot. “The car will lift up and it can float. We’ve had that happen.”
Ring said he can’t say how long it will take before roads are reopened.
“We have to let them dry, and we’ll have to haul material in and rebuild them,” he said. “Every one is different. Once it evaporates and the sun comes out over the weekend, hopefully Monday we can go out and try to rebuild the road.”
It all depends on if it rains, if the sun comes out, if the wind blows and dries roads, and how roads drain.
“There are too many variables to try to say,” he said. “We’ll be out working as soon as we can.”
Ring told the commissioners Public Works crews have put in a lot of extra hours to keep up.
“We’re going to carry this like a snow event, as far as the time and what not,” he said. “The last snow event, which I don’t have all the numbers on yet, but in processing payroll we had 608 hours overtime. So we’ve been doing a lot of Saturday, Sunday work. I applaud the crews out there, because they all come when you call. So we’ve got a great group of folks, and they stay as long as you ask them too.”