Governor’s award goes to team replacing 2 major bridges following 2017 historic flood

Photo: Shawn Shipley (right), supervisor of the Missouri Department of Transportation maintenance shed in Dora, was part of the bridge replacement team honored by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson with the Governor’s Award for Quality and Productivity. The award recognized the MoDOT employees involved with replacing two major Ozark County bridges within six months of their collapse during the historic 2017 floods here. A press release announcing the award said such projects usually take three years to complete. Photo: CourtesyOzark County Times

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has recognized the employees involved with replacing two major Ozark County bridges within six months after they collapsed during the historic floods in 2017.

Shawn Shipley, supervisor of the Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT) maintenance shed in Dora, accepted the Governor’s Award for Quality and Productivity last month.

In presenting the award, including individual plaques for team members and a larger plaque now displayed in MoDOT’s regional office in Willow Springs, Parson recognized the team for “excellent customer service” during the bridge replacements and commended their effort in “minimizing the inconvenience to the public and expediting planning, procurement and construction for both bridges.”

A press release from the governor’s office says the replacement team “compressed a construction process for bridges of this size that normally takes three years into less than six months.” Adding to the complexity of these projects, the new bridges were redesigned to avoid future flood damage.”

The Clarkson Construction website says the Ozark County North Fork River bridge replacement project was also awarded an America’s Transportation – Mid America Region for Operations Excellence award.

Shipley had been asleep only a couple of hours when his phone rang sometime between 3 and 4 a.m. April 30, 2017.

He tells the Ozark County Times, answering the phone in an exhausted fog, he couldn’t believe what his fellow MoDOT employee Chaseton Rogers was telling him: The major CC Highway and PP Highway bridges over the North Fork of the White River in eastern Ozark County had been completely washed away by raging floodwaters.

MoDOT project manager Pete Berry in Willow Springs, also a member of the honored team, tells the Times in his 24-year career with MoDOT, he’d never seen anything like the coordinated effort by multiple state agencies and outside consultants resulting in the rebuilt bridges’ completion just six months after the flood. Also amazing was that the rebuilt bridges were completed and opened to traffic just three months after the contract was awarded.

For Shipley, the award was a reminder of the exhausting time during and after the flood when he and his co-workers at the time, Chaseton Rogers, Andy Boyd, Kane Thomas, Luke Cooley, Dillan Collins and Kody Decker, struggled to do everything they could to keep the driving public safe as torrential rain filled every waterway to record levels. The floodwaters not only destroyed the two major bridges over the North Fork but covered other roads and bridges throughout the county and washed out approaches where roads connected to low-water crossings.

For example, Shipley says, three bridge ends were washed out on AP Highway on the far east side of the county, “where it didn’t take out the bridge but washed out places where there were 20-foot drops between the road and the bridge end.”

On that Friday evening, April 29, 2017, Shipley says four of his Dora crew members couldn’t get out of their own homes due to the rising water, so he and a couple of others planned to alternate shifts during the night. He had worked until midnight before finally heading home for a few hours’ sleep.

After he was awakened by Rogers’ call, he says, “You go back to work because you’ve got to see it for yourself and try to figure out where we go from here.”

Then, standing on the pavement next to where the bridges had been, “it was a strange feeling to see it gone,” he says. “It was unreal.”

That Saturday morning, he and Collins loaded concrete barricades on trailers, but getting them into position was no easy task. Normally it might have taken 10-15 minutes to reach the east end of the CC Highway bridge. But with the bridge gone, they had to drive north on Highway 181 to Highway 14 then travel east to Highway 63 north of West Plains and head south to CC to drive back west to the river, a trip that took an hour or more. Installing the barricades on the south side of the PP Highway bridge required an even longer drive-around.

Meanwhile, he says, all of the Dora MoDOT employees had damage on their own properties, and for some of them, the usual 10-minute commute to work at the Dora MoDOT shed became a 60- to 70-mile drive. “Everybody had their own battle to fight,” Shipley says.

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