Travel difficult and not recommended on county gravel roads

-Submitted photo
This photo, provided by the Webster County engineer’s office, shows one of that county’s gravel roads Wednesday morning. Melting snow and rain have left the roads so wet engineers across the state are asking for less use of the roads until conditions improve.

County engineers across the state have a request.

Don’t go on the gravel roads unless you have to.

“As much as they can stay off them, is beneficial to everyone. Every vehicle that goes down just creates more damage,” said Hamilton County Engineer Nicole Stinn.

With all the rain and melting snow, there’s very little that can be done about the roads in Hamilton County right now, said Stinn.

“They’re terrible,” Stinn said. “Right now obviously we’ve had rain and a lot of melting snow, and there’s nowhere for the water to go, so it sits on the roads and makes them soft, or floods the road.

“We do have somewhere around 10 roads we have closed, with quite a few more that have holes or wash-outs but are not closed completely.”

There’s not much that can be done but wait for the weather to warm up and water to drain off, she said.

“We are not really able to rock the roads or do much of any repairs right now because our equipment is so heavy if we go down it, we will tear up the road even worse,” said Stinn. “We really have nothing we can do to help them right now. If at all possible we are trying to send motor graders out to touch spots up, but again that creates more problems.”

Even the sign truck is not able to get to spots to put up barricades, she said — they have to drive the sign truck on the paved roads, and then go out with a four-wheel drive truck.

The conditions have caused schools all across the county — and the state — to ban their buses from gravel roads.

To see where roads are closed, visit iowacountyroads.org and click on “County 511” on the main page.

Webster City, South Hamilton, Northeast Hamilton, and Stratford schools are all sending buses on paved roads only until further notice.

“We started that on Tuesday. It’s a mess,” said NEH Supt./Principal Mike Kruger. “We have a lot of kids out, because the parents are unable to get them here.”

All across the state, he’s hearing the same thing, Kruger said.

In five years with NEH, he hasn’t seen it this bad before.

“That’s what I’m also hearing from people who have been here all their lives,” Kruger said. “This is as bad as it’s been, there’s no doubt.”

Luckily, time is on their side.

“We went to hard surface on Tuesday,” said Dave Owen, transportation director for South Hamilton. “We’re doing hard surface the rest of the week, then next week is spring break. That gives us a week to not have to drive on them. Hopefully after that we’re good to go.”

The roads pose challenges for emergency responders, as well.

” It’s going to be difficult for emergency vehicles to get down gravels. Just with the heavy trucks, the fire trucks and ambulances that are two-wheel drive,” said Hamilton County Sheriff Doug Timmons.

Dylan Havens, commodity manager with POET Biorefining in Gowrie, said he’s advising customers to keep in touch with them about fulfilling their contracts until conditions improve.

“With the snow we have had up to this point, there is a possibility of delinquency of some bushels on some contracts,” he said. “We will continue to be understanding and flexible on the delivery time frame if it does come to the point that gravel roads are completely impassable, which seems to be ever so closely nearing.”

Havens said it’s come to an “enter at your own risk” situation for many of the producers needing to deliver to the Gowrie facility.

“A lot of these guys, if it gets to a certain point, won’t push it,” he said. “They don’t want to risk getting stuck on a gravel road just to bring us corn.”

As early as last week, Havens said many customers have already chosen an alternate route to deliver corn. In the meantime, they’re also keeping an eye on the forecast.

“Some are looking forward to next week’s forecast which looks remarkably drier,” he said. “We have coming improvements with regards to the weather and with regards to gravel road conditions. They are looking ahead and planning for possibly picking back up and knocking some of these contracts out to the middle of next week.”

Southern Webster County livestock and grain producer Aaron Alliger said he is doing what he can to keep his operation going.

“The trucks are having a hard time getting out. We have to pick the right roads to go down,” he said. “The cattle have to eat. The hogs have to eat.”

Until conditions improve, Alliger said they have halted all manure hauling and are going to try to do as much hauling during the early hours as they can, when there is potential for cooler temperatures to make the gravel roads passable.

Alliger said these are some of the worst gravel roads he has seen, and as a result, it could be some time before they return to normal.

“The roads are just giving out,” he said. “The frost hasn’t thawed to let the water down. They’re just soup. They are horrible.”

For the safety of his two daughters and others, Alliger made the decision on Wednesday morning to meet their school bus at the blacktop road, as he said there would have been no way the bus would have made it to their house.

Hamilton County Road Closings

Several roads are closed throughout Hamilton County due to weather conditions.

For more information, visit iowacountyroads.org and click County 511.

• 160th Street from Kantor Avenue to Lakin’s Grove Aveune, at the north part of the county, due to water over the road

• 175th Street between Johnson Avenue and Kantor Avenue, at the White Fox Creek bridge

• Xircus Avenue from 200th to 210th Street, east of Williams

• 250th Street between Kantor and Lockwood Avenues, southeast of Webster City

• Lockwood Avenue for about 1.72 miles, from 250th Street to 265th Street

• 260th Street between Neely and Olsen Avenues, over the creek

• 300th Street from U.S. Highway 69 to Saratoga Avenue, north of Jewell

• Inkpaduta Avenue from 330th to 342nd Street, northwest of Stanhope

• 350th Street from Erickson to Fenton Avenues, west of Stanhope

• Poplar Grove Avenue, from 390th Street to the south county line, over the creek

• 400th Street, from Olsen to Poplar Grove Avenues, along the south county line

• Wilson Avenue from 390th Street to the south county line

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