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Three bridges remain closed as price tag for damage grows
By RUSSELL TURNER
A state of emergency has been extended in Greene County as local officials continue to address damage caused by heavy rains passing through the state just before the new year.
The Greene County Board of Supervisors on Monday extended for another 30 days a local emergency declaration the county leaders first put into place on Friday, Dec. 28, the morning after storms wreaked havoc across the county. Multiple roads were closed temporarily and three remain impassable after large sections were washed away. Several homes and a church were flooded and dozens of county residents were also left without power for a short period.
Greene County Emergency Management Director Trent Robertson said emergency responders conducted nine swift water rescues Thursday and Friday. Five of those rescue operations were in the Sand Hill area. Others were in McLain, Leakesville and the Benjo community.
Northern parts of the county reportedly received up to 14 inches of rain during the overnight storms.
The three roads with sections that remain closed are Manning Hill Road and Lovewell Road in Dist. 3 and Old Avera Road, just south of the intersection with Indian Hill Road, in Dist. 2.
Greene County is one of nine Mississippi counties named in an emergency declaration made by Gov. Phil Bryant, but county leaders are hopeful President Trump will make a National Declaration of Emergency in response to the flooding as that could open up federal funding to help with the costs associated with putting the public infrastructure back in order.
Declarations of emergency, such as the one from Gov. Bryant, do not guarantee assistance for damage to private property.
County engineer Jason Lamb visited briefly with supervisors on Monday and provided preliminary cost estimates for the three major projects on Manning Hill, Lovwell and Old Avera roads. The project on Manning Hill will require complete reconstruction of the vertical timber abutment walls and bridge approaches and will cost an estimated $50,000 to repair so the road can be reopened.
Lovewell Road is designated as a State Aid Road and will require complete culvert replacement and roadway reconstruction at an estimated cost of $150,000. Lamb said officials my need to install a larger box culvert structure to better handle the amount of water from the drainage area in these types of flooding events. That type of project would cost approximately $350,000.
Old Avera Road is a State Aid Road as well and will require a complete box culvert replacement and roadway construction at an estimated price tag of $400,000.
There was also damage beneath the Hellhole Creek Bridge on Indian Hill Road in Dist. 3. That is a federal secondary route and Lamb said flood waters washed away quite a bit of dirt from around the bridge’s pilings, which will require slope repairs expected to cost around $35,000.
Along with the damage to public infrastructure and private property, flash flooding also was responsible for a sizeable oil spill in the Piave area.
According to Robertson, several hundred gallons of crude oil was lost when a retaining wall surrounding a bulk tank failed during the heavy rains Thursday night. The bulk tank had reportedly overfilled and the crude spilled into nearby fish ponds when the levies failed.
Robertson said contractors spent several days under the direction of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality cleaning up the spill. None of the oil is believed to have reached any nearby streams.