Collapsed rural highway leaves daily commuters adapting to new route
Hwy. 26 is a major thoroughfare in that area, connecting Lucedale to Wiggins.
LUCEDALE, Miss. (WLOX) - Residents in George County and those who travel through the area each day for work are trying to get used to a new route now that Hwy. 26 is out of commission.
The highway, which is a major thoroughfare in the rural community, collapsed on Monday following heavy rainfall from Hurricane Ida. Two people died and 10 others were injured, including three who suffered critical injuries.
Actually seeing the devastation firsthand has left many stunned. The hole stretches around 50-feet wide and is more than 20-feet deep. Broke chunks of asphalt hang over the edge, water still streaming down into the ravine.
”I just thought I had seen some sights in this little town, until I saw this,” said George County resident James Snelgrove. ”It will be a major change and inconvenience to hundreds, perhaps several thousand.”
Mississippi Department of Transportation crews have been out this week surveying the scene. On Wednesday, MDOT put a drone up and began taking in preparation of the work ahead.
No timeframe has been released yet on how long the repairs will take but the road closure will likely affect drivers for months. Highway 26 runs between Highway 63 and Highway 49, connecting Lucedale and Wiggins. The section between Highway 57 and Highway 63, which is where the collapse happened, is now closed indefinitely.
The main detours to go around it are around 20 miles away, leaving several daily commuters and school bus routes impacted, especially in the smaller communities of Benndale, Buzzard Roost, and Crossroads.
While the detour is adding a lot more time to daily commutes, the reality that people lost their lives and others are still fighting to survive because of the collapse weighs even heavier on the minds of many.
“I have five children,” said one mother who lives nearby. “I live in Benndale and I use this road to take my kids back and forth for football, cheer. I go probably four times a day, back and forth. My husband works in Alaksa and we go this way to the Mobile airport. It is a definite inconvenience but nothing like the people who were actually in the thing.”
Now, the community is rallying together to support one another and the families affected by this tragedy.
”Some people can say what they want about George County but when anybody needs something, they come together,” added the mother we spoke with.
WATCH BELOW: Drone video shows collapsed Highway 26
Copyright 2021 WLOX. All rights reserved.