Red Deer County says there were no signs a gravel road that collapsed near Bowden was about to fail.
Marty Campbell, county director of operations, said a resident called in about 4 p.m. on Tuesday that creek water was nearing the top of the road.
“That’s all the call was. There was no urgency or emergency in that,” he said, adding water levels are high across the county, and many roads have been temporarily closed because water has crossed them.
Under the county’s procedures, Township Road 350 near Bowden would have been labelled urgent and investigated on Wednesday morning. Before that could be done, the culvert failed.
“No one could see that was going to happen,” said Campbell.
A school bus taking a dozen children to Bowden Grandview School hit the washed-out road about 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday. It managed to clear the three-metre-wide crevice in the road before coming to a stop on the other side.
Three children and the bus driver were taken to hospital with minor injuries.
Mayor Jim Wood said the county responded to the problem properly.
“As we look through this I can’t see anything we would have done different,” he said.
There are many roads in the county threatened by high water and other problems caused by the wet spring and heavy winter snows and the municipality’s crews are responding to each depending on priority.
“This was one of those freak events that I don’t think could have been anticipated,” he said.
Wood said he was contacted by parents of two of the children on the bus and he explained the efforts the county is making to keep its roads in good shape.
Campbell said a beaver dam had blocked the culvert and a contractor was sent out last week to clear away debris and get the water flowing again.
There was no indication the culvert was at risk of failing.
Not all residents are convinced. The Red Deer Advocate spoke to a couple of residents, including an area farmer and the father of a Grade 6 boy injured in the accident, who believe more should have been done.
“If they’d had cleaned out the culvert, it wouldn’t have flushed out the road,” said the Innisfail-area father. “I’m sure there was no water going through that culvert because when I looked at it (Wednesday) morning the culvert was still plugged solid. The beaver dammed it right up.”
Campbell said Alberta Highways Services, which is contracted to handle work such as clearing the beaver blockage, did the job properly.
A beaver was captured and the culvert was 60 to 70 per cent cleared and water was flowing again. “The fact that the beaver came back that quickly and rebuilt it — who could predict that? We’re dealing with these all over the county.”
Despite the incident, Campbell said the county’s process for fielding calls, identifying problems and tackling the highest priority locations first is working.
Meanwhile, the road remains closed while the county repairs the damage, a job expected to take a few days.