Posted 9/09/14 (Tue)
By Stephanie Allums
Farmer Staff Writer
A few little cracks in the road turned into a huge piece of land slipping away from the hillside within just a couple of weeks in southern McKenzie County.
On Route 50, also known as Beicegel Creek Road, part of the roadway slipped down the hillside of the Badlands last week. It was about the length of three passenger vehicles.
The sinkage and road destruction has caused about $1 million in damage and costs to come up with a new and safe route for the road, which leads to some residential homes and land, according to Jerry Samuelson, with the McKenzie County Emergency Services.
“A couple of weeks before the incident, some small cracks were discovered in the dirt road,” said Mark Koeser, director of the McKenzie County Maintenance Department. “Two or three days before the road slipped, the land had dropped almost three feet.”
The southern area of the county has gotten a lot of rain over the past few months, which could be one of the factors of the land slipping and sinking.
“There has been an abnormal amount of rain for McKenzie County, and most of it was in that area,” Samuelson said. “They had almost 10 inches of rain in 10 days.”
Koeser explained that many of the landslides and sinkholes go unnoticed in the Badlands because most of the time they don’t effect roads or everyday life.
“In the Badlands, sinkholes and slides are not totally uncommon,” Koeser said. “In wetter weather, they are a lot more common.”
When the cracks in the road were first discovered, the county placed flags around the danger zone so travelers would steer clear and go around it if possible.
“For this one to slide out so quickly, it may be a bit different than the others,” Koeser said. “There have maybe been two or three other roads that have done this in the county over the last few years - exclusively in the Badlands.”
When the ground freezes in the winter, it’s less likely that there will be sinkage or slides. But when it thaws and the ground becomes wet, it is more conducive to cause damage, Koeser explained.
“The silky clay gets slick and just slides,” he said.
It is important for the county road department to come up with a new route and road to ensure safety.
“There is always a chance that more may slide,” Koeser said.
Right now, there is a temporary way around the route, but it could still be deemed unsafe. The county is currently working on a plan to create a new road, which may lead to carving into the remaining hillside. This process will be costly, Samuelson said.