Rocky Rural Roads: Commissioners, residents wait to assess road damage

As Texas saw the most severe winter storm in recent history over the past week, roads were blanketed with snow and the Texas Department of Transportation and private companies worked tirelessly to clear roads for drivers. But in Lamar County outside of the Paris city limits, it’s the job of each county commissioner to take care of roads in their respective precinct, however, maintenance crews didn’t make it out to more rural areas over the week due to conditions and safety measures.

Commissioner Lonnie Layton, of Precinct 2, said Thursday he was keeping his maintenance crew home for the freezing week out of safety concerns, but said they’d be back on the roads come Monday, provided that conditions improve.

Layton said the roads and commissioners are at the mercy of the melting snow. The faster it goes away, the sooner he can get a better idea of the work that needs to be done.

“I’m just hoping and praying for sunshine,” Layton said.

Bud Mackey, who lives near Powderly on a county road, said after he didn’t see any trucks clearing the road he decided to stay home for the week until the below-freezing temperatures warmed up. He said many of his neighbors were on the same page.

“I haven’t seen hardly anyone out,” Mackey said, noting the exception of some young people being pulled on a sled behind a pick-up.

He was helped out during the week by his eldest son who came from Oklahoma to visit for a day and stopped by Mackey’s house to drop off some food, but told Mackey that as soon as he crossed the Red River and entered Texas, the roads were notably worse.

Both Layton and Mackey said the real test of how the county roads are holding up will come when the temperatures rise.

“They will definitely be wet and muddy,” Layton said, adding that he won’t be able to use machines like motor graders on the roads until they dry out more.

Mackey said he’s in a relatively good position despite the conditions, given that he owns pick-up trucks so he has the traction and clearance to get over standing water and mud — but cars lower to the ground may not.

“We’ll really get to see what it looks like when all the snow melts,” Mackey said.

Commissioners Alan Skidmore and Ronnie Bass previously told The Paris News that many county roads lack ditches on either side that would allow water to drain away from the roadway and through culverts, causing standing water that damages the roads even more. To compound the issue, many of their county roads don’t have a stable, impermeable base, like lime or concrete and so moisture and general wear and tear can cause significant problems.

“You need a ditch and a base,” Skidmore told The Paris News in early February. “If you don’t have those two you don’t have a road.”

Mackey said the ditches on his county road are nearly non-existent.

Layton said in the coming week, the commissioners and their staff will have to buckle down to try their best to make county roads traversable and assess the damage the historic storm has caused.

“We will have our plates full,” Layton said. “We were not expecting this.”

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