County officials ask for caution as waters continue to riseFor the second time in less than a month, Chairman Doug Finn has declared a state of emergency in Douglas County.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
For the second time in less than a month, Chairman Doug Finn has declared a state of emergency in Douglas County.
It’s a declaration he never made before in his 30 years in county government.
The first, following a tornado that touched down in Solon Springs and straight-line winds tore through southern Douglas County on July 1, happened almost two weeks ago, and the second came today, after four to six inches of rain fell in western Douglas County leaving state, county and town roads impassable.
State Highway 35 and several county roads in western Douglas County south of Superior closed today due to flooding. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Douglas County Highway Department was diverting traffic eastward at county roads C and T.
Chief Deputy Charlie Law, who traveled through the affected area near the Black River, said while the road was still passable at 9 a.m., by 1 p.m. county and town emergency vehicles could no longer pass through the area as water continued to rise during the day.
The state highway in Douglas County is expected to remain closed for at least the next 24 hours, or until the water recedes, said Chris Ouellette, DOT spokeswoman.
Road closures resulting from the flooding prompted Douglas County Health and Human Services Director Pat Schanen to contact the Red Cross about opening a shelter to give people in the affected area a place to go. Staff from both the public health and human service divisions will be on hand at the Superior Town Hall, 4917 South State Road 35, to assist the Red Cross and residents who may not be able to reach their home.
About 130 residences are in the affected areas.
Those who may need Red Cross assistance or temporary shelter during the road flooding should contact the Chapter at (218) 722-0071 or the Health and Human Services personnel with non-emergency concerns or questions at (218) 391-4201, (218) 391-6756, (218) 590-6142 or (218) 428-6988.
The emergency shelter opened at 3 p.m. today.
“We are working closely with Douglas County officials and have already assembled the equipment and volunteer staff we need to help these folks,” said Tony Guerra, emergency Readiness Coordinator North for the Minneapolis region. “We’ll make them just as comfortable as possible and are providing cots, food, and refreshments for what we hope will be a short stay until people can get back to their homes.”
Volunteers with fire departments in Superior, Summit and Dairyland — the area primarily affected by the flooding — have been contacting people in their towns to notify them of the shelter and assess the need, Schanen said.
For residents stranded in their homes, Emergency Manager Keith Kesler said people should call 911 if there is an emergency. Emergency Management has a plan to utilize boats and mutual aid for ambulance services to make sure any medical emergencies can be address.
On State Highway 35, Law said the area in northern Douglas County runs from about the Michelsky Road south about five miles. About a 20 mile area was affected over all, Kesler said.
Douglas County Highway Commissioner Paul Halverson said several county roads had been closed or washed out as a result of the storm. Roads affected by the flooding include County Highway B west of County Highway BB, County Highway W between highways C and B, sections of Chaffey and Brietzman roads, County Highway M between U.S. Highway 53 and State Highway 35.
Numerous town roads have also been affected, Kesler said.
While Douglas County officials are optimistic the water could start receding this evening, they are cautioning residents in the affected areas to use caution when the water recedes because the roads and culverts could be undermined. Officials are also cautioning people to use care on the banks of swollen rivers.
“We haven’t had any injuries … and we would like to keep it that way,” Kesler said.