Recovery road could be slow movingThe good news in Superior and northern rural Douglas County was the Nemadji River was beginning to recede.
By: Shelley Nelson and Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
The good news in Superior and northern rural Douglas County was the Nemadji River was beginning to recede.
The bad news is recovery is going to take some time.
After all, in the city of Superior alone, several roads washed out or giant sinkholes opened up after about 10 inches of rain fell on an already saturated Northland.
“Right now, we’re in a continued assessment,” said Mayor Bruce Hagen. “There’s some good news, and there’s some news that repairs won’t be coming very quickly because of the nature of the damage.”
The major damage occurred mainly by Superior High School on North 28th Street; North 21st Street between Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College and the CenturyTel building, largely by the tracks; and Marina Drive between the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center and Barker’s Island, which washed completely away. A big question mark hung over Woodlawn Drive near the golf course after the road was overtaken by the Nemadji River on Wednesday evening.
“Once the water recedes, we’ll see what’s left,” said Assistant Public Works Director Todd Janigo. “If last year is any indication, it’ll be a washout.”
Working in the city’s favor Wednesday was a decision to use concrete barriers along U.S. Highway 2/53, which eliminated the need for a “drastic detour” that would have resulted if the river had overtaken the road, Hagen said. While traffic on the highway was restricted to one lane of travel in each direction Thursday morning, causing lengthy delays for commuters, the river’s recession left only the right lane closed to eastbound travel by early afternoon and all lanes reopened by mid-afternoon Thursday, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
“One thing that we saw (Wednesday) was great cooperation between the city and county, and the state,” said County Administrator Andy Lisak.
City crews have been out for more than a day and a half and are shifting gears to assess the damage in the city of Superior.
To address the most serious problems on Marina Drive, North 28th Street and Woodlawn Avenue, Hagen said the city is going to put emergency repairs out to the private sector for two reasons. With the amount of work involved in those repairs, he said tapping the private sector would free up city street crews to shore up roads that are in danger, such as those with washed out shoulders.
“Our normal operations have been impeded with new operations that normally wouldn’t be addressed at this time,” Hagen said. “… There are some streets that are probably damaged beyond what they should be.”
He said city street crews will be putting in long hours to assess and repair that damage, and city and county officials are going to be seeking state aid to help.
“It’s almost a foregone conclusion that FEMA is out of this,” Hagen said. Between Bayfield and Douglas County, the damage is not likely to reach the federal threshold for aid. He said while they had considered teaming up with neighboring flood-damaged communities in Minnesota, the other FEMA requirement is to apply state by state.
County, state roads
Douglas County Highway crews were scattered throughout the northern half of the county Thursday dealing with storm damage, according to Highway Commissioner Paul Halverson.
“They’re all over the county trying to improve things,” he said. “Everybody’s focused on storm damage.”
Rural Douglas County had at least 10 roads in which culverts completely washed out, said David Sletten, the county’s emergency planner and risk assessor.
Douglas County was forced to close 16 different stretches of road, including two stretches along State Highway 13 because they were impassible. By Thursday, only two had reopened.
“We still have a number of roads that are still closed,” said Lisak. “The highway department has been out blocking roads for the most part.”
Information concerning county road closures, as well as a map of the closed roads, is being kept up to date at www.douglascountywi.org.
Like their urban counterparts in Superior, the county is shifting gears to assess the extent of the damage from this week’s storm.
“The big issue is where culverts have been blown out and we’re waiting for replacement culverts,” Lisak said. “Some of these roads are going to be closed through the weekend.”
Crews are also working to remove debris
Halvorson said drivers need to be on the lookout.
“Pay attention to the signs,” Halverson said. “If it says ‘Road closed,’ it is.”
Damage was mostly contained in the northern half of the county. While the Twin Ports received up to 9 inches of rain during the storm, Hawthorne only received 2½ inches.
Two damaged sections of road are expected to be passable again by this morning – County Highway C near Perham Road and County Highway A from the city limits to County Highway C. Both road closures were caused by washouts of small culverts, Halverson said, and the department had replacements in stock.
A number of projects won’t be tackled until water recedes, including the County Highway W bridge over the Nemadji River and County Highway W near Irondale Road. Other damage, like closures on County Highway FF and State Highway 13, will require ordering large pipes. That could take two to three weeks, Halverson said.
The county ran out of signs and barricades due to the large number of damaged road sections, he said, and had to borrow Washburn County’s emergency sign truck. As areas are fixed, more signs have become available. If people notice new damage or holes in roads without any barricades, barrels or signs marking them, they can call the highway department, (715) 374-2575, or 911 after hours.
Below the surface
Public Works Director Jeff Goetzman said the city will begin to assess its underground infrastructure in addition to work on roads that is more obvious.
Right now, the city has no idea whether the storm might have wreaked havoc on the city’s sewer system.
In coming weeks, Goetzman said sewer crews will be out televising lines and determining whether there is pipe that was damaged as a result of the storm.
But it may not be the only danger that lies below the surface. City and county officials alike are urging motorists to heed barricades that remain even after the water is gone because compromised shoulders and other issues could remain that make a road too dangerous to drive.
Hagen said he would also discourage youth in particular from playing in any floodwaters that may remain, as the storm water could be contaminated.