By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The storms that hit the community of Pifer Mountain on June 28 were to blame for the closure of WV Route 38. On Thursday, July 19, the road was reopened to traffic, though repairs are far from over. “It was pure necessity to close the bridge, it was not safe” stated James Rossi, District Engineer for District 8 with the WV Department of Highways. “We take these situations very seriously when it comes to safety.”
Inspection of the bridge began once the water levels decreased on Monday, July 2, which quickly indicated the amount of damage that had incurred. Rossi explained there was very little support left underneath of this older bridge. It was sitting on rock and both sides had been undermined several feet, and there were deep holes extending back under the supports along with cracks that went all the way to the deck of the bridge. The crews had to shore up the supports with shot rock and concrete, which has taken two and a half weeks, the time the bridge has been closed to through traffic.
The bridge wasn’t the only damage during these powerful storms. Vehicles were washed away, homes were flooded, and personal property was lost. In addition, several ditch lines were washed out, culverts clogged, debris is still being collected, and roads are still being re-established.
When asked about the damage repairs from a financial standpoint, Rossi, being out on the job during our conversation, gave an early estimate of two to three hundred thousand dollars. At this time, they have met the county threshold to qualify for assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but are unsure if they have met the state threshold. All of the repairs thus far have been at the expense of the county and district budgets, but they are awaiting confirmation to see if they will receive any reimbursement from FEMA or potentially from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Rossi expressed his concern about this manner when he stated there have been five events thus far since spring in District 8, and to date only one has received any type of funding or reimbursement.
As of now, Route 38 is passable to through traffic; however there is much more work to be done. There are still several areas that are gravel until they get the pavement replaced as well as continuing with the rest of the area cleanup efforts. The continued roadwork is expected to last another month, and until then there will continue to be traffic control with flaggers and pilot vehicles with single lane closures. Rossi and the department of highway requests travelers to please use caution and “plan ahead, watch for signs, and be safe. We have been fortunate to not have lost any lives, let’s keep it that way.”