By STEPHEN HUBA
NEW MANCHESTER-A group of Quail Drive neighbors nearly stranded by heavy rains on Saturday is waiting on Hancock County and the state of West Virginia for help in fixing a bridge that's their main connection to the outside world.
This bridge, nearly washed out on Saturday, is the only way Quail Drive residents can get to and from their homes. Flooding, and possibly debris washed down the creek, made the bridge impassable for the Hancock County residents on Saturday. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
In the meantime, residents of the private drive off Arner Road must park their vehicles before the bridge and cross the bridge on foot, walking on a wooden plank that's been placed there for extra security.
"The road, you can clearly see, is impassable," said Hancock County Commissioner Jeff Davis, who visited the site on Tuesday.
Quail Drive residents say about four inches of rain fell in a short amount of time Saturday evening, flooding a creek near the bottom of the drive and compromising the bridge that it flows under.
The pipe under the bridge became separated from the bridge itself, and stone and dirt that was part of the bridge structure was washed away.
The last time this happened was after heavy rains caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, residents said.
"This is the third time since I've lived here that we've lost our bridge," said Terri Tuma, who moved to Quail Drive in 1995.
Tuma, 50, a floor supervisor at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort, said the events on Saturday made for some precarious passages over the weekend.
"I'm afraid if it rains again, this bridge is going to go the rest of the way," Tuma said. "We're in a very bad way right now."
Janet Rice, who works second shift at Homer Laughlin China Co., said having to walk to her car does not help her asthma. Other residents, including an elderly woman with health problems, have been having a difficult time getting to their homes.
Residents also are concerned about the ability of fire trucks and ambulances to get to their homes in the event of an emergency.
Tuma believes the root of the problem is a clogged drainage pipe at the base of a hill on Arner Road. During heavy rains, the water doesn't drain properly and instead washes down over people's yards and into the creek.
Tuma said the pipe has been clogged since 2010 and she can't get anyone from the West Virginia Division of Highways to fix it. On Tuesday, a worker with District 6 of the Division of Highways was digging along Arner Road in an apparent attempt at clearing the ditch that drains into the pipe.
In West Virginia, roads are either maintained by the state, in the case of a state highway or county road, or by private residents, in the case of a private road such as Quail Drive, Davis said.
After Hurricane Katrina, the residents of Quail Drive got together and made their own improvements, said resident Sue Obarski. "The county help us by bringing some gravel," she said.
Obarski said the neighbors are determined to do the same thing again. "This is our road. We've got to have it fixed," she said. "Even if we don't get help from the state or county, we'll find a way to get it done."
Fixing the bridge on Quail Drive probably will require help from the Hancock County Office of Emergency Management and the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Davis said.
Residents got word late Tuesday that the bridge will be fixed to the tune of $4,500, Obarski said.
Davis said the repairs probably will involve installing a new pipe and reinforcing the bank.
"Everybody and their brother is working on this right now," he said. "Being this is a private drive, it takes a little longer to get anything done."