ST LOUIS/ GASCONADE- Looking at this picture taken by Roamin Rich, it presents more volumes than words can ever describe. The Great Flash Flood of 2017, which has been occurring since 30 April but the worst of it was during the date between then and 3 May, can be compared to the one from 2008 in the Midwest in terms of its massive flow of water and the destruction that was left behind. Hundreds of houses and businesses, many of them more than 80 years old and considered historic, were washed away, and with that the livelihoods of families and business owners.
Many roads were washed away, however, as you can see in the Route 66 Bridge at Gasconade, closed to traffic since 2015, the undermining of asphalt uncovered the original concrete roadway that was laid there when the highway connecting Chicago and Los Angeles via Tulsa was designated and built in 1926. This leads to the question of whether to uncover the rest of the roadway and restore the concrete or pave it over. This is important because the debate is heating up regarding ownership and planned restoration of the structure and the Missouri Department of Transportation’s plan to construct a new bridge alongside the two-span truss bridge and defer ownership to a party willing to repurpose it for recreational use. But that is another story (click here for more about this bridge).
But the Gasconade Bridge also represents several bridges that were negatively affected by the floods. Several structures in Missouri alone have been destroyed- not just historic bridges but also modern bridges built in the 1970s and 80s, thus making them just as vulnerable to catastrophes like this as their predecessors. James Baughn has compiled a list of bridges affected by the flooding for the Bridgehunter.com website (which you can click here for more details). The Chronicles will summarize the top five that are affected besides the Gasconade Bridge, whose repair work will obviously will be needed in order to make it passable again. We will keep you informed on the latest in Missouri, as clean-up efforts are underway.
The Author’s Top Five:
Bruns Bridge- Located over the Meramec River south of Moselle in Franklin County, this 1888 structure was the product of the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, where they fabricated the steel and one of Zenas’ sons, George, whose bridge company was located in Des Moines, oversaw the construction of the pinned connected Pratt through truss with X-frame portal bracings. The 193-foot span was knocked off its foundations and rushing waters slammed it into its replacement span, turning it into twisted metal. A video of the disaster describes it in details. With Franklin County eager on demolishing the remaining truss bridges in the county because of liability issues, one cannot expect this bridge to be restored unless it is relocated out of state, which is currently being sought in Winneshiek County, Iowa after the collapse of the Gilliece Bridge because of an overweight truck.
James Bridge- Ozark County faces at least 20 bridges that either have approach spans wiped out, severely damaged by flooding, both or completely destroyed. The James Bridge over the North Fork White River at Highway PP represents the last variant but in a spectacular fashion. The 1958 bridge, consisting of two polygonal Warren spans with riveted connections that were built by J.W. Githens, was flipped over by rushing waters, crushing the trusses under the weight of its own decking. Originally slated for replacement, this disaster will surely expedite the process as the highway is heavily traveled. But motorists will have to wait a few months before a crossing can be built.
Irwin C. Cudworth Memorial Bridge- Also known as the Hammond Bridge, this North White River Crossing at Highway CC represents a bridge type that is modern on one hand but is still not safe from the floodwaters. The 1975 steel stringer span was wiped out by floodwaters, leaving just the piers and abutments in tact. Despite plans for rebuilding the bridge, one will really need to examine what type of bridge to be built and how high it should be built. Regardless of material and type, no modern bridge is safe from mother nature. This bridge is the eighth modern bridge built after 1975 that has been destroyed since 2012. This includes the infamous interstate bridge collapse in Atlanta, which happened on 30 March, which was caused by a fire. That bridge, which carries Interstate 85, is being rebuilt and should reopen later this summer.
Devil’s Elbow Bridge- Another US 66 Bridge located over Big Piney River in Pulaski County, this two-span Parker through truss structure, which was built in 1923, had been restored and reopened to traffic in 2014, yet flooding put the structure partially underwater. Fortunately, because of the success of the restoration, the bridge withstood the pressure from the rushing water, plus debris from the nearby historic hotel and houses that succumbed under the pressure. Plans are underway to rebuild the hotel.
Windsor Harbor Bridge- Located over Rock Creek near the Mississippi River in Kimmswick in Jefferson County, this bridge is of growing concern as floodwaters of the mighty river has inundated the structure, causing concern for undermining the piers and abutments of this through truss bridge. The bridge was built by the Keystone Bridge Company in 1874 at its original location in St. Louis. It was relocated to its present site in 1930 and was converted to pedestrian traffic when it was restored and repurposed in 1985. It’s well noted because of its Keystone columns and ornamental portals, all constructed with wrought and cast iron.