Roads flood as snow melts

A truck drives through half a foot of stranding water which swelled up from Eagle Creek on Barclay Messerly Rd in Braceville. Roads across the county faced flooding from snow melt and rain. (Tribune Chronicle / Allie Vugrincic)

“Sometimes Mother Nature just overwhelms,” said Ohio Department of Transportation press secretary Matt Bruning.

Temperatures on Wednesday were in the upper 40s, causing much of the snow that fell over the weekend to melt. The snow melt also was accompanied by periods of rain throughout the day and overnight into Thursday.

ODOT closed state Route 87 between state Routes 45 and 534 in Mesopotamia and Bloomfield because of flooding on Thursday. Roads in Braceville and Hartford experienced flooding as well, according to Trumbull County Highway Superintendent Tom Klejka. By 2 p.m., most county roads had been cleared and reopened, he said.

Klejka pointed to snow clogging drainage ditches as a cause of the flooding.

In Braceville, sections of Eagle Creek Road and Barclay Messerly Road were closed where icy water from the creek spilled onto the road. According to a measuring stick near the Barclay Messerly bridge, water was about half a foot deep around 4 p.m. Thursday.

One Braceville resident said he had to drive to the “road closed” sign to pick up his son from school, as the bus would not go down the road. Another resident, who said he was used to the flooding, plowed right through the water in his truck.

With next week’s temperatures expected to dip into negative digits, the major concern is that water will not be able to drain into the frozen ground, leaving roadways icy and dangerous, said Bruning. Salt is only really effective down to 15 degrees. After that, calcium chloride must be added to keep roads clear, he said.

The Trumbull County Engineer’s Office has brine — a liquid salt that doesn’t freeze — available to use on county roads. The mixture works down to the single digits, said Klejka.

Klejka reminds motorists if they see a “high water” or “road closed” sign, they should seek an alternate route.

“A few minutes driving around to a different road would be a lot better than getting stranded in high water this time of year,” Klejka said.

Motorists also should be careful of the ice, which can be in unexpected areas, as cars driving through puddles drag water further up the road, he said.

Snow melt and rain also caused a drastic rise in the Mahoning River. By noon Thursday, water levels near Youngstown were at 8.67 feet, rising more than 6 feet from the same time on Wednesday, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Bruning said statewide, ODOT closed nearly two dozen roads because of high water on Thursday, with most of the road closures happening in the southeast part of the state. Most of the closures occurred in areas that are known to be prone to flooding.

“I don’t think it catches too many people who live there by surprise,” said Bruning.

Bruning said the state has plenty of salt to get them through the winter. So far, 353,580 tons of salt has been used statewide, which is below average for January.