Dora-area residents delighted that CC Highway bridge is open again
They had errands to run, so Marcie and Wes Roberts drove the long way to West Plains from their home near the Dora School last Wednesday, Oct. 4. They had to take a round-about route – north on Highway 181, east on Highway 14 and then south on Highway 63 – because the direct route, CC Highway, was still closed at the North Fork of the White River, where the Irwin C. Cudworth Bridge had been washed away in the late-April floods.
But while Wes was getting his hair cut at Dora resident Jay Smith’s barber shop in West Plains, Jay told him he’d heard the new bridge over the North Fork was “supposed to open by the time school was out that day,” Marcie told the Times Monday.
They checked their watches and decided to take CC Highway home to Dora, crossing their fingers the bridge would be open by the time they got there. “We thought we had enough time, if the bridge was still closed, that we could go back and come around and still get to the school in time to pick up the kids,” Marcie said, referring to their six children enrolled in Dora School.
They got to the area near the bridge about 2:30 p.m., “and the first sign was still up, but then we got to the next sign, and they were taking it down,” she said. “We pulled up, and the construction foreman came up to us and said, ‘You guys are the first to cross!’ I think he was even more excited than we were. He was jumping up and down and waving his arms. He was so happy. He told us to be sure and take pictures and put it on Facebook.”
Marcie recorded video on her smartphone as Wes slowly drove across the brand-new bridge. She posted it on her Facebook page and also shared it on the Ozark County Times page, where it garnered dozens of responses and many happy comments.
A 50-minute detour
Few people couldn’t have been happier about the bridge’s reopening than Tracy Lovan and her three children. Tracy and her husband, Kelly, and their family live on CC Highway a little over 2 miles east of the Cudworth Bridge. While Kelly works for Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative in Howell County, Tracy is in her 14th year as a teacher at Dora School, where their children are in kindergarten and seventh and third grades.
Tracy and her kids came home from school on the last day of the schoolyear April 28, never dreaming that it would be 160 days before they could cross the bridge over the North Fork again. Historic floods that weekend lifted the waters of area streams to unheard-of levels, washing away slabs on low-water crossings throughout the county and completely destroying the Cudworth Bridge on CC Highway as well as the James Bridge on PP Highway a few miles away.
The outage meant the usual seven-minute drive to Dora School became a 50-minute detour. And as if that wasn’t enough of a headache, when basketball season began, her seventh-grade son needed to be at school each day at 6:30 a.m. for practice. “So we had to leave the house every morning at 5:30,” Tracy said.
If her son was playing in a game, instead of popping home for a little break in between school and the game, they all stayed at the school, meaning they were there 12 hours or more on some days, she said.
Meanwhile, for several weeks after the flood, her husband was working “hours and hours” every day for the electric co-op, repairing downed poles and lines and restoring power that had been knocked out by the storms. Kelly needed to be at work each day by 5 a.m., so the family rarely saw him during those stressful, hectic days, she said.
“One night he and two other guys got trapped in between two low-water crossings that flooded. They couldn’t get out, so they had to spend the night there,” she said.
Last Wednesday, the Lovans’ two sons were competing in a track meet at Bakersfield, and Tracy had taken a day off work so she could be at the meet. After the meet ended, the boys returned to school on the bus, and Tracy drove back home, taking the long, out-of-the-way detour. She had sent notes to her kids’ teachers that morning, telling them the kids would be taking the bus home.
But at 3 p.m., she talked to someone at the school, who told her the bus would be able to cross the newly reopened bridge. I thought, ‘I’m going to pick up the kids, just so we can cross that bridge,’” she said.
And that’s what she did. “I called the school and told them to keep my kids there, not to put them on the bus, because I was coming to pick them up so we could drive across the bridge.”
She jumped in the car and happily headed east, toward Dora, taking the short way to school again after all those months. She crossed the new bridge, got to the school in seven minutes and picked up the kids; then they happily headed for home.
She drove slowly as they crossed the bridge, taking pictures and marveling at what had seemed so ordinary 160 days before and now seemed like an almost miraculous thing. Before the bridge fell in the floods, she’d hardly given it a thought as she crossed it each day – a crossing that might have taken 10 to 15 seconds at normal speed. But last Wednesday she cherished every foot of roadway she and the kids rolled over, thankful for the quick work by Clarkson Construction, which completed the job contracted by the Missouri Department of Transportation.
“Nobody else was around, and then we met one other car on the bridge. It was going slow too,” she said.