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Mayflies making Ford City roads slick for drivers

Louis B. Ruediger | Total Trib Media
Mayfly bodies collect at the base of lamp post on the Ford City Veterans Bridge after a Monday night hatch. Ford City officials posted on Facebook a warning that the accumulated bugs can make roads slippery and could pose a hazard for drivers. Tuesday July 22, 2014.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

It's hard to believe that some Ford City roads are being described as “slick as ice” with temperatures hovering near 90 degrees on Tuesday.

Blame the road hazard on mayflies.

The river-loving bugs made their annual descent en masse and took over Ford City Veterans Bridge on Monday night. And their accumulating carcasses is what is causing the slick roads.

“It's like loose gravel or ice. Cars just slide right across it,” said Ford City fire Chief Scott Gaiser.

Despite their name, mayflies can gather to mate at any time when conditions are right throughout the summer. That happens once a year. After mating, they die.

“It usually lasts pretty much the whole month, once we start seeing them,” Gaiser said.

Tyson Klukan, a member of Ford City Hose Company No. 1, encountered the bugs on Monday night as he drove across Veterans Bridge, which connects Ford City and North Buffalo. The critters' corpses littered the span.

“The whole bridge, deck and sidewalk were covered by mayflies,” Klukan said.

Large sections of the bridge were slick, he said.

Usually, mayflies congregate at the Kittanning Citizens Bridge. But this summer, it's covered by a tarp while PennDOT makes repairs.

“Us and Kittanning really get hit with them,” Gaiser said. “Because they're working on the Kittanning bridge, I don't think it's going to be as bad there.”

Earl “Buzz” Kline of the Kittanning Borough Fire Department said he hasn't seen any of the bothersome bugs.

“To my knowledge, we haven't had any problems this year,” he said. “Maybe everything floated downriver with the high water we're having.”

If that's the case, Ford City is taking the brunt of this year's invasion.

On Tuesday, mayfly remains up to three inches deep were found along either side of the bridge in Ford City.

The bugs that were still alive took shelter on Tuesday under the lights along the bridge.

PennDOT officials hadn't heard of plans to clean up the carnage mayflies left behind. Sometimes Kittanning's fire department is called out to hose off that borough's bridge, Gaiser said.

Randall Brozenick, director of Armstrong County's public safety department, said that in the past the mayflies may have cause an unsuspecting driver or two to crash as they crossed area bridges.

“If you notice a bunch of mayflies on the road, slow down,” he said. “I know the roads have gotten greasy.”

Julie E. Martin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303, x1315 or jmartin@tribweb.com.

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