MIDLOTHIAN — A bit of history was swept away during Wednesday morning’s flash floods near Midlothian.
And Tommy and Rosemary Morgeson said they’re glad that was all that was gone as a result of a downpour they said struck in the early morning hours from about 3-6 a.m.
Standing Thursday by the gaping hole in the private roadway that leads to their home on Montgomery Road, Tommy and Rosemary said they’re simply glad no one was hurt when the crushing floodwaters took out the large culvert that served as their bridge.
“It looked like the Colorado River down here that morning,” Tommy said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
The bridge structure had been there for 45 years, Tommy said, noting it included an 8-foot tall by 30-foot long culvert covered with about 7 feet of compacted dirt and topped with an asphalt road surface. The structure had been there so long that vegetation and trees had grown up at the edge of the roadway.
“It looked like a road. You almost didn’t know you were crossing a creek,” Tommy said. “I still can’t believe it’s gone.”
The floods left a huge hole in their wake, with Tommy estimating the distance from one side across the gap to the other side at about 20 feet, with a drop of about 25 feet to the now-trickling waters. The culvert itself was forced downstream about 400 feet, where it remained as of Thursday, crushed and battered.
The Morgesons said they knew it was raining and raining hard that morning but they hadn’t given the bridge any thought because there had been no previous problems in the 12 years they’ve owned the property.
When their water stopped running at 6:30 a.m., however, Tommy said he walked down toward the bridge, which is where their water and other utility lines also crossed the creek, thinking a tree had perhaps fallen on the line and broken it.
What he saw as he came around a curve in the roadway was water that was ankle deep in a flat area of their lower yard and getting deeper to probably knee high as the roadway dropped toward the bridge.
“I could see there was a chunk out of it (the bridge), but I couldn’t see more than that with the flashlight,” he said, noting it was still dark out.
He said he didn’t venture closer because of the ferocity of the water that was rushing by.
“I wasn’t about to get close to the creek,” he said, saying he went back up to the house until it grew lighter, with Rosemary adding, “You could hear the water running up at the house, it was so loud.”
When Tommy walked back down at about 7, there was enough light to tell the entire structure was gone.
“I never would have thought it would wash out,” he said. “I’m thinking, ‘How do we get water, our phone? How do we get off of our property?”
He headed back up to the house, stopping his daughter, who was about to leave for work, telling her and Rosemary the bridge was out.
“Of course, they didn’t believe me and walked back with me down to the bridge so they could see for themselves,” he said.
Tommy and Rosemary said they’re still amazed at the amount of water they saw running by. They don’t have an official measurement for how much water fell, but Rosemary - a master gardener - said she had put out 5-gallon buckets to catch rain and those had about 15 inches in each of them.
“We must have gotten a tremendous amount of rain just right here,” Tommy said.
Initially, the Morgesons thought they were without any access to getting off of their property as the road was their only way in and out. Fortunately, they said, a neighbor has let them cut a gap in his pipe fencing and is allowing them to drive across his property to reach the road.
Unfortunately, their insurance company has told them their homeowners policy doesn’t cover roads and bridges.
“You can’t buy that type of insurance,” Tommy said. “Flood insurance wouldn’t even have covered this. It’s our responsibility.”
They were able to get their water company out to turn off the water by 8 a.m. and plumbers have since reconnected the water line across the creek where the bridge once stood by attaching it to some fencing that remain strung across the span.
The contractors who have looked at the project so far have suggested the Morgesons go with a pier and beam bridge as opposed to reinstalling a culvert with earth and asphalt on top - and it could be as long as a month before a contractor is available to do the work.
Besides the bridge itself, the Morgesons said they also intend to have the large trees that have collapsed into the creek and the crushed culvert removed from it ended up.
“I don’t want it to go further downstream and hurt someone,” Tommy said.
E-mail JoAnn at firstname.lastname@example.org