Thursday, June 18, 2009

Flying pieces of bridge pier

From the Point Pleasant Register:

MASON — Yesterday afternoon the last major remnant of the Pomeroy Mason Bridge was blown into history as the top half of the West Virginia pier was imploded, however, a stray piece of the pier ended up in a nearby family’s bedroom as a souvenir.

Read the whole story while it's online.

This brought back a couple of memories. In 1995, when the old 6th Street Bridge in Huntington was being demolished, someone from the Coast Guard called me and asked if I would like to witness the demolition of the piers that day. They were keeping it secret from the public for a reason that I have since forgotten in the 14 years since. The boss approved it, so I said sure.

We stayed behind the land pier of the new bridge on the West Virginia side. First they blew the old pier closest to the Ohio shore. A little later, they blew the other pier, the one closest to West Virginia. It made a different sound than the first blast did. The Coast Guard guy said something like, "That wasn't supposed to happen," as he stared back toward the floodwall between us and the downtown. He saw what looked like debris from the pier sail over the floodwall.

Naturally, I figured I needed to do a story. As I was leaving the area between the river and the floodwall, I saw a guy driving fast down a dirt road toward us. He didn't look happy. When I got to the other side of the floodwall, I saw debris on the four-lane street and damage to cars and buildings from the flying chunks of concrete.

For nearly 14 years, I kept one piece of bridge pier in my desk at work. When I was downsized (terminated; dismissed; fired) on May 22, I left that piece of concrete behind. I don't know why.

One more thing: Way back in August 1978, during my first week at The Herald-Dispatch, I was sent to the community of ... I can't remember ... in Wayne County WV to do a story about an old woman whose home was damaged by a large rock flying off the hillside during blasting for an upgraded U.S. 52. The boulder came through her roof and landed in an upstairs bedroom.

OK: I looked on a map. The community was Hubbardstown, along the Big Sandy River. For years after, when I drove U.S. 52 I always looked for that house.

Bridge over the Kanawha

It's not on the Ohio River. It's 53 miles up the Kanawha River, the Ohio's largest tributary in this area. But it can be noted here that the two sides of North America's largest concrete box girder bridge were joined yesterday. When finished, the bridge will be on Interstate 64 just east (correction, west) of Charleston WV.

As my former coworker Cara  Bailey wrote in a story in today's Charleston Daily Mail, the main span of the bridge is 760 feet. The total length will be 2,950 feet.

To read the whole thing, click here.