Hewitt City Leaders Look for Ways to Protect Drivers from Floode - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Hewitt City Leaders Look for Ways to Protect Drivers from Flooded Roads

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(KCEN) -- A dangerous stretch of road is coming under scrutiny. It's been the subject of discussion since a teenager was swept off the pavement during last week's flooding.

And even though police still aren't sure where LaCharles Montgomery’s car went off the road, city leaders are already addressing the problem.

It’s a low spot at the corner of Panther Way and Panther Run Drive in a small strip of county land between Waco and Hewitt.

“It was a mess," Hewitt Police Chief Jim Devlin said. He was there early Friday when the creek overtook the road.

“They had it under control as best that they could,” he said, “but, you know, those first responding officers that got out here, you know, they'd never seen it like this."

The creek doesn't really look like a whole lot on a normal day, but after several inches of rain in a very short amount of time, it's enough to leave trash in trees several feet up.

Now questions arise about how to keep drivers safe. One idea is simply putting up warning signs.

“It's very simple, straightforward," said Adam Miles, Hewitt’s city manager.

Hewitt recently took over maintenance for the short stretch of road from the county in a new agreement. They'd still have to work with Waco on one side of the bridge to put up signs there.

“It's not a deal that requires legislative action,” Miles said. “It's something that we can put up and mitigate a traffic hazard."

Plus they'd be cheap -- around $250-$300. Not like more expensive gates elsewhere in the city.

“They could have spent this money on a million different things other than this," said Steven Hunt, referencing metal gates near his house.

Hunt has lived at the corner of Castleman Creek Road and Earle Road, near flood-prone Castleman Creek, for 33 years.

The city put up the gates near his home within the last five years to close off flooded roads. Hewitt estimates them at around $7,000 per bridge crossing.

Hunt would like to see something more temporary.

“That's the way they used to do it,” he said. “Line up the pylons and be done with it. Then come get them [when the water recedes], and that was it.”

The water got high enough and powerful enough on Earle Road that it actually tore up the roadway. City crews have already re-paved the area, and brought a front-end loader out Wednesday to clear away the old asphalt.

"That just shows you how much force there was that time,” said John Burris, who lives near the creek.

The same happened on Panther Way – too much water resulting in torn-up pavement. A crew started repair work there Wednesday, and Miles said they’d be back to re-pave Thursday.

It’s a unique piece of land, with three different law enforcement agencies (Waco PD, Hewitt PD, and the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office) responding to calls there.

"You have Waco literally 15 foot that way [north of the intersection], and Hewitt's a quarter of a mile up this way [southwest], and this is technically in the county,” Miles said.

With Hewitt’s new maintenance agreement, it falls to them to decide what to do. Those permanent gates could prove tricky logistically.

"Who's actually going to be the one that comes out? And if you're on the Waco side,” he said, “do you have to alert Waco to come out and lock it up?"

Hunt thinks temporary barriers would accomplish the same thing as the gates, for much cheaper.

“Never had any issues then,” he said, “and don't know why they would now."

But whatever the solution, Hewitt leaders say Montgomery's death last week has brought the problem front and center.

“We need to have the key players at the table to figure out what it is we're going to do,” Devlin said, before another downpour claims another life.

Hewitt leaders say they’re already working on finding the best solution.

Waco police are continuing their investigation into just what happened, and even where his car went into the creek.

Montgomery's funeral has been set for Monday, June 23, at 11 a.m.

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