Millions in damage won’t net federal aidThe damages following the June 19-20 storm are in the millions, but not enough to enact assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
The damages following the June 19-20 storm are in the millions, but not enough to enact assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Douglas County — including the city of Superior — doesn’t even come close to meeting the $7.7 million threshold to prompt federal disaster aid, said Mayor Bruce Hagen. Roads and infrastructure damage are estimated around $2 million dollars.
As of noon July 4, all county trunk highways and state trunk highways in Douglas County were open for vehicular traffic.
“The storm event and flooding of June 19 and 20 caused significant damage to state, county, town and city roads in Douglas County,” said Douglas County Administrator Andy Lisak. Due to flood damage, State Highways 13 and 105 along with about 15 portions of county trunk highways had to be closed to traffic.
“Members of the Douglas County Highway Department worked diligently to make the necessary repairs that allowed most of the impacted (highways) to be re-opened prior to the July 4 holiday.” Lisak said. “On July 4th, Douglas County Highway personnel worked to repair damage on CTH S and to remove debris on CTH A … We are happy to report that with all county and state highways reopened, Douglas County is open for business and recreation” with the tireless efforts of the county highway department.
Although all county and state highways are reopened, there are still segments of some town roads and some city of Superior streets that remain closed to traffic.
The city is designing the repair for North 28th Street and the goal is to have something done on that design by today, said Superior Assistant Public Works Director Todd Janigo. He said the goal is to seek quotes early next week so work can get underway by July 16.
The city also put out requests for proposals to repair to Marina Drive; Janigo said the project is complicated because of the amount of water coming out of the K Street sewer and the drive’s proximity to Lake Superior. Janigo said he knows it’s a concern with the Lake Superior Dragon Festival coming up the last weekend in August.
“We’re going to do everything we can to have it open by then, but in the same breath, I don’t want to make that promise,” Janigo said.
Janigo said with Woodlawn Drive being under water for the second time in a year, the city is waiting for design criteria from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for the downward slope to prevent the problems of the shoulders washing away when the Nemadji River rises over the road. It was something that was being developed before the storm, he said.
Businesses hit hard
Businesses in Douglas County also took a $2 million hit from the record rain that fell June 19 and 20.
As of June 29, 29 businesses in northern Douglas County had reported damages exceeding $2 million.
While most businesses reported water in the basement, damages, in some cases, could be more than $200,000 because mechanical systems of the buildings were damaged or destroyed. Others had inventory, tools and appliances stored in basements when they flooded.
At Mont du Lac, in rural Superior, the damage could be in the millions. In addition to Mont du Lac Road being 3 feet under water, more than 15 landslides and sinkholes developed on the ski hills during the torrential rains.
There are two main issues we’re dealing with out there, said Larry Pulkrabek of Mont du Lac. He said slides have left tree and debris in the bowl area that has to be cleaned up. He is planning a volunteer day July 28 to address the cleanup.
A bigger issue is the observation deck that slid away from the chairlift.
“If that goes, we’re done,” Pulkrabek said. So far, he said, it hasn’t moved.
Money is another issue. With damage in the millions, he said he just doesn’t have the money to hire the excavators and heavy equipment operators needed to make repairs on the ski hill at this time.
Homeowners take brunt
The brunt of the damage was born by homeowners in the northern part of the county.
Douglas County Emergency Management officials estimate the damages to residential property at almost $5.1 million, however, the vast majority of homeowners affected by the floods are insufficient to set in motion disaster aid from FEMA.
That’s not good news for Dane Jusula and his wife, who live near the heating plant owned the University of Wisconsin-Superior, where nearly every building was affected by flooding.
The damage was at the couple’s home was caused by city sewers backing up when the combined system was overwhelmed by the volume of rain.
“It wasn’t rainwater,” said Dane Jusula, who recognizes the record rainfall contributed to the problem. He said when he got home from work that night; his floor drain had turned into a “geyser.” While his wife attempted to stop the flow there by standing in a bucket over the drain, he said he was stuffing rags into the toilet and weighting them down with dumbbells to try to stem the flow of sewage filling his basement.
When all was said and done, the couple had about $36,000 in damages to the home they’d owned for seven months. In addition to losing their furnace, water heater, washer and dryer, the finished basement and personal belongings were destroyed.
About 707 property owners reported some type of damage resulting from the storm, but only 17 of those qualify as major damage, according to Hagen. About 300 homes had minor damage, while the remaining had slight impacts.
However to meet benchmark for FEMA, the mayor said 582 residential and business structures that would have had to have at least 40 percent of the value destroyed. Basements are not considered in those damage benchmarks unless it is a living area — recreation and family rooms are not living areas, he said.
“We do not believe that we will be anywhere near the benchmark where FEMA will be involved,” Hagen said.
Jusula, who wasn’t alone in the damage his home suffered near the University of Wisconsin-Superior, isn’t looking to what’s happened in the past. He’s now looking to the future.
With the extent of the flooding in his home and his neighbors — and at the university nearby — he’s hoping to start a petition for changes and upgrades to the city’s sewer system.
He suggested to the council that a stormwater holding basin, similar to those constructed in Billings Park and South Superior, should be built near the university.
Anyone interested in contacting him can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I want to encourage people to get involved with their city council and voice their concerns, especially people who live near UW-Superior as we were very hard hit,” Jusula said.