Hamlin County, SD
The tough winter has become an even more difficult spring in Hamlin County. Finding an open road in that area can be a difficult task.
Hamlin County's Highway Superintendent says the county started Friday with 25 roads either closed because water is running over them or because they've been washed out. But the situation there is so severe, the number changes by the day. Because of that, highway crews haven't had a moment to rest in weeks.
"That's the biggest concern. Keep everyone safe. Keep roads barricaded where it's not safe to travel and hope everybody stays off them," Hamlin County Highway Superintendent Merl Hanson said. [Hamlin County Road Closure Information]
Hanson was out Friday afternoon checking on a road south of Bryant where waves from a slough are breaking out parts of the pavement. He says he'd like to have crews fixing issues, but bringing out equipment isn't a good idea.
"You put any trucks on these roads now, you'll cause more damage. You fix one spot and cause six more. So we're trying to stay off them as much as possible," Hanson said.
Some areas in the county have been worked on. The portion of Highway 28 that washed out has been filled in, but is still reduced to one lane. And it doesn't take running water to cause damage to roads. Hanson says there's still frost in the ground in this area making it like a sponge. That's causing roads to break up and fall apart.
"I’m hoping we get the frost out before the farmers have to go out in the field. Once they start going, they're going to have to go hard and it's going to cause more road damage," Hanson said.
A much smaller source is also causing big problem. Muskrats are leaving a mark.
"They cut under the banks and under the roads and the roads collapse on the shoulder. They do a lot of damage in a day," Hanson said.
Hanson says it’s all adding up to be disastrous for his highway department. They were strapped for cash before the roads started falling apart.
"We're so far behind on maintenance now. It's going to be tough. Everything is going up and we can't do it all," Hanson said.
Hanson also wants to warn those driving in Hamlin County that new road damage reports are coming in nearly constantly. That means there could be dangerous spots that aren't yet marked with flags or signs. He's asking everyone to be extra careful while driving and to never ignore road closed barriers.