The project was straightforward and planned months in advance: move two (2) identical D-type boilers that measured 47' - 3" long, 20' - 0" wide, 16' - 4" height, and weight 240,000 lbs. Using a pair of Perkins' dual lane loading suspensions systems we were to haul them from Lincoln, NE through Iowa and Minnesota and deliver them into downtown Madison WI to the University right after Spring Road Restrictions were lifted in MN and WI. While certainly not an easy set of moves, they were, relatively speaking, a typical project for Perkins.
Then came the flood. The Missouri River overflowed its banks and flooded a huge portion of the Upper Midwest from Bismarck, ND down to Jefferson City, MO. Triggered by the melt off from record snow falls in the Rock Mountains of Montana and Wyoming (estimated at 212% of the normal snowpack) along with near record spring rainfall in the region, the major dams on the upper Missouri River were forced to release record amounts of water to prevent overflow.
Since NE DOT had originally planned to route the loads over the Missouri River at Blair, NE into IA, re-routing the loads was nearing impossible since every bridge between Omaha and Kansas City was either closed entirely or had exit ramps blocked at some point. Other than indefinite postponement, our only option was the request a routing into SD. NE DOT worked with us to locate a route around the existing construction projects, flooded roads, and low elevation with weak bridges, including one structure with only 2" of overhead clearance. Once the route was determined, the loads were moved at night out of Lincoln, NE and were escorted by Nebraska Highway Patrol, which at the time were a rarity.
As you would expect, SD DOT also had construction projects underway and were significantly affected by the flooding. At one point during our route through southwest SD, Perkins' loads were forced to move on a fairly soft 8-mile portion of gravel road to get around construction.
Minnesota added anther layer of complication. Once Perkins finally attained a route through our home state to reach WI using a combination of state highways, county roads and city streets to avoid flooded areas and new construction projects, the State of Minnesota shut down its government for only the second time in state history. Despite having our MN DOT hauling permits in hand, the loads reached the SD/MN state line just in time for the shutdown and which meant the escorting of our loads by MN State police would be postponed as well. Finally, reason prevailed after many calls by Perkins project staff to get the loads escorted by multiple jurisdiction of law enforcement and we were approved to move.
After re-routes due to the massive flooding in the central plain states and the delays caused by a state shutdown, the loads were safely delivered downtown at night under the watchful eyes of state and local government members. After dealing with historical, natural and political events, the loads were delivered in tact to the satisfaction of the client, the general contractor and University of Wisconsin-Madison. What should have been a route of only about 500 miles instead it ended up as a route of 1,010 miles.
Video and Photos by: The Boldt Company