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Down, then up again

A large truck crane pulls an 82,000-pound milling machine out of Elk Creek Friday afternoon. The machine fell through a bridge on Nobles County 1 south of Brewster on Tuesday.2 / 2

BREWSTER -- More than 80,000 pounds of machine was lifted out of Elk Creek Friday afternoon by a large crane in a surprisingly short amount of time.

According to Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder, the mill that fell through the bridge on Nobles County 1 south of Brewster Tuesday was to be lifted out at 3 p.m. Friday. Shortly after 4 p.m., it was being loaded onto a trailer nearby.

After men spent time hooking up chains, planning a route to swing the mill machine and lifting it from the creek bed slowly, the go-ahead was given and the equipment began to move. As the machine rose from the creek, water poured out steadily and continued to do so as the mill was raised over the bridge, then swung onto the bed of the trailer.

While crane operators and others struggled to secure the mill machine, others studied the destruction left in its wake.

The crane was brought in Thursday night, Schnieder said, and counterweights added Friday. A structural engineer examined the bridge Friday, and first indications are that a temporary barrier or railing can be constructed to open up one lane of traffic.

"We'll replace some bracing underneath the crack and open (the bridge) up to one lane so people can take turns going across," Schnieder said. "That is our hope right now."

The plan is just to buy the county time, he stated, but the bridge will most likely end up being replaced.

"The likelihood of getting that done this fall is very remote," Schnieder admitted.

"It will probably be sometime next year, but at least we'll get traffic moving on the roadway and help everybody out."

The bridge is part of a well-traveled road one mile south of Brewster and serves as a main route between the communities of Brewster and Round Lake. It had recently been evaluated by a state bridge engineer as part of an assessment of area bridges, but the report was not yet finalized.

A contractor was milling bituminous surface off the bridge deck, making one last pass, when the outer edge of one of the bridge spans failed, Schnieder reported the day of the collapse, sending the machine into the creek below. The operator was able to jump clear before the machine shifted and went down. The man did seek medical care for a possible knee strain that resulted from the incident, but was otherwise unharmed, Schnieder said.