The after effects of the Bomb Cyclone, followed by more storms has made it difficult for road departments to get out and fix the county roads in the Northern Panhandle.
In Sioux, Dawes, Sheridan and Box Butte there are still more than 80 roads impassable to anything but passenger cars. This is creating problems for many agriculture businesses, especially, livestock producers.
Ken Klaes, who owns a feedlot north of Alliance has only one county road leading into his operation.
“The roads are basically impassable to get semis up and down,” he said. “If they are loaded going in they get stuck and if they are loaded going out the get stuck. So since the middle of March, I’ve gotten no feed trucks in”
Klaes has had to change the rations at his feedlot. He has roughage at the feed yard, but they haven’t been able to get the grain and supplements in to finish the cattle.
“They’re still gaining, but only half of what they should, they should be gaining twice of what they are gaining and that’s just money lost every day,” he said.
Right now they are in a holding pattern, as Klaes is hoping the roads department will have a plan or get the roads done in early May.
Several ag businesses rely on semis in the Panhandle, and Don Mandelko owner of Mandelko Grinding just outside of Chadron is also finding it difficult to run his business.
“In March we lost probably 30 percent of our normal business. It’s also costing us a lot more money to travel to places,” he said.
Mandelko and his crew have to take longer trips to get to places. In one instance, he said his son, had to travel 85 miles in order to get to a place, which normally would be 25 miles.
The weather has not been helping the situation, as every time it rains, which has been a good deal in the past few weeks, the roads become impassable.
In the Dawes and Sioux County areas, there are up to 60 roads, which are open to one lane.
In Dawes, they have had to pump water off some of the roads just to get them to dry out.
“We’re still working with washouts and the road over the Niobrara River,” said Tom Kuester, Sheridan County road superintendent. “We had 70 roads, which were affected and now there is a lot of mud and lost gravel, which will have to be replaced.”
With two remaining roads closed in Sheridan, Kuester said, even the open roads are not in great condition.
Sheridan like the other three counties have opened most roads enough for passenger vehicles, but nothing too big.
In Box Butte, the roads department still has 30 miles of roads closed.
The goal initially was to get one lane open to everyone, which has been done except for one area.
“What we’re seeing now is what was passable for passenger vehicles, is not enough room for a sprayer. Producers are starting to get in their fields and what is patched for one lane is not sufficient at this time,” said Barbara Keegan highway superintendent for Box Butte Roads Department.
Both Mandelko and Klaes know, they are not the only ones frustrated by the road conditions and the road crews are working hard to get the situation solved.
The region has several groups assisting with creating plans and solutions. The Nebraska Extension, Upper White/Niobrara NRD, County Commissioners, Emergency Region 23, FSA, NRCS, and others met on Friday, April 26 to discuss the situation and look at a way forward.
“Not only do we have producers, but we also have tourism coming up and how do we tell the public about the roads we have available to them,” said Jenny Nixon Nebraska Extension educator at the Sioux County Extension office.
Sioux, Dawes, Sheridan and Box Butte Counties hope to have the roads open to more traffic in May sometime if the weather cooperates. So, farmers and livestock producers can continue with their summertime activities of planting and moving cattle.