Closed Bridges Slow Cleanup In Ozark County

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TECUMSEH, Mo. – If the cleanup process from flash flooding wasn’t hard enough on its own, in Ozark County, the recovery is being drawn out due to several damaged roads and bridges.

One of the most traveled roads in the county, Highway 160, is shut down near Tecumseh. The road connects traffic between Gainesville and West Plains.

“I looked and saw Highway 160 was my best route over this way,” says Mark Walsh, who is on his way to Memphis.

“Fortunately, now that you’ve given me some direction, I might just make it,” he says with a laugh while standing feet away from the closed bridge over Norfork Lake.  “Luckily I have plenty of fuel.”

While Walsh has plenty of time to get where he’s going, crews with MoDOT and the county are working as quickly as they can to get six damaged bridges back open.

“There’s no good way for our road crews to get back and forth to get to the east side of the county,” says Ozark County Commissioner, Greg Donley.

“They’ve are having to go to Mt. Home or find a different way to get where they are going,” he says.

Donley says he’s never seen anything like the flash flooding that moved through last weekend. It not only washed away bridges, it damaged more than 500 homes.

“We have houses over 100-years old that the river maybe got to the back step [in the past],” he says, “this time, it took the whole house.”

Donley says bridge damage pales in comparison to losing all of your belongings. But getting main thoroughfares like Highway 160 back open is necessary to help speed up the recovery process.

“We haven’t talked to [MoDOT] about time frames or anything yet,” he says. “I don’t think they know yet.”

“They are kind of like us, they are overwhelmed with projects and they’re trying to get people where they can get out to get their medicine or whatever they need,” he says.

The county is still waiting to see if federal money, such as low-interest FEMA loans, might be made available.

However, those with damage to livestock and pastures are asked to go ahead and call the USDA.

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