This Marion County township road is an example of the kind of damage caused by widespread flooding during May. A washout at the edge of a bridge has severely eroded the road, and vehicles attempting to make it up a slight grade have left deep ruts in the road surface.
Topsoil that has washed off fields and gravel and sand that have washed off roads fill hundreds of miles of township and county road ditches. The problem makes it harder for roads to drain, making subsequent rain events more likely to flood and damage roads.
Debris and vegetation growing right up the road edge and the lack of a crown make drainage on this road difficult. As operators work to eliminate ruts, the result can be a road that is too flat and needs to be graded to create a crown. An issue with May rains is that they came too often to allow the roads to dry enough to get work done. South-central Kansas had rain on 21 days in the month of May.
With rivers and streams running back full — or remaining above flood stage — water on fields and in overgrown ditches has nowhere to go. The result is water that flows over roads, washing away gravel and flattening the road. This paves the way for even more flooding with the next rain. Most townships have only one grader operator to cover dozens of miles of road.
Another problem counties and townships face is the washing out of damage of culvert, like this one in Sedgwick County. Damaged culverts pose a safety threat during the busy summer season for farmers trying to move equipment into and out of farm fields.
Vegetation often grows up in stream beds during periods of dry weather, creating obstruction that causes flooding when heavy rains hit. The brush also catches and holds flood debris, making the problem worse.
ANATOMY OF A WASHOUT
Debris from flooding can back up against the structure of a low-water crossing, causing the roadway to wash out when streams rise. This kind of washout is dangerous for farm equipment operators.