It’s fair to say the last few days for MoDOT workers in the lake area have been unique. On Sunday night, a rock bluff collapsed onto Highway 54, damaging multiple vehicles. This event is actually extremely rare and the response is something MoDOT Engineer Bob Lynch says he has never dealt with in this area.

It’s fair to say the last few days for MoDOT workers in the lake area have been unique. On Sunday night, a rock bluff collapsed onto Highway 54, damaging multiple vehicles. This event is actually extremely rare and the response is something MoDOT Engineer Bob Lynch says he has never dealt with in this area.

Lynch says that, typically, any road issues such as this are first responded to by local law enforcement, who then relay the message to MoDOT officials. He says they had crews out to the scene between 30 to 45 minutes after the rocks had fallen. These crews worked all night to remove the large rock debris and make at least one lane safe for travelers to pass through.

MoDOT brought their staff geologists to the scene the following morning to inspect the site and try to come up with a cause for the collapse. Firstly, however, they needed to see if the area was in danger of collapsing any further. Upon inspection, they determined that an additional 20 feet of rock needed to be chipped away, as it was also weak and could possibly fall. This work has been done since Monday and Lynch hopes for it to be complete by Wednesday, though also admits that it could take more time than that.

Geologists were able to indicate that the high rains received over the last fews may have been the cause for the erosion that dropped the rocks down. There was also a clay seam within the rock that may have been softened by moisture and created a weak point for the rock to separate from.

Lynch says that inspections on rock bluffs all over the state are done throughout the year. Though there is no direct measurements taken of rock material, he says that they perform visual inspections of weathering as often as possible. Any rock material that is dropped into ditch lines around the area is also removed when needed. Unfortunately, Lynch says that this issue is extremely difficult to detect.

“I’m not sure if it’s even possible for us to detect,” Lynch said. “You only hear about this happening maybe once or twice a year in Missouri.”

The only other instance of rock falling into an active highway Lynch can recall was over a decade ago north of Jefferson City.

Lynch says that, for now, all they can do is work towards getting road operations back to normal and resume working conditions. If anyone is aware of rock formations that look suspicious, he says to call MoDOT and report it right away, just as you would a pothole. Any early sign of detection can go a long way towards preventing issues such as this, especially with so many rock bluffs in the area. The highway commission is also taking claims for anyone involved in the accident and will soon determine how claims will be taken care of.