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Mark Buscher: Facing a flood of washed-out roads

by News Tribune | May 7, 2017 at 5:46 a.m. | Updated May 8, 2017 at 5:06 p.m.
As MoDOT road superintendent in Maries, Phelps and Pulaski counties, Mark Buscher faces a long, hard road in the wake of recent flooding.

It will take weeks, maybe months, to complete repairs on some roads in areas just south of Jefferson City.

Mark Buscher is the Missouri Department of Transportation's road superintendent for Maries, Phelps and Pulaski counties.

"In some places we have culverts completely washed out," he said. "The Big Piney and Little Piney rivers all pour into the Gasconade River, and with all that water, it gets pretty intense. There are some sections of roads that were completely destroyed, but they were in less traveled areas so the impact on drivers shouldn't be too bad."

Flooding closed U.S. 63 at Vienna in Maries County - a major thoroughfare for traffic between Jefferson City and Rolla - for three days last week.

Buscher said until major flooding events happen, you don't realize the power of water.

"That's why we get so nervous when we have events like these," he said. "You see a lot of structures that the water hits the side of, and people walk on top of them. We try to keep them off the bridges because we lost five statewide after these storms."

Buscher has been with MoDOT 32 years, including through the floods of 1993 and 1995. He said he thinks these recent storms left worse damage than the floods of 20-plus years ago.

"I've worked the '08, '13 and '15 flooding, and although we may be getting more comfortable dealing with these events and being more efficient, I don't think it's necessarily a good thing," he said. "I've seen 100-year floods five times, so I guess that makes me 500 years old."

Buscher said some areas saw 14-17 inches of rain with this event.

"We have good experience and good documentation from these other floods, so we know what roads can be affected by high water," he said. "We share a lot of our information with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) on things like when water levels would shut down roads."

He laughed, "I'd be happy if we went through these every 10 years instead of every other year."


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