Heavy rains, flash flooding damage communities across the area
By Correne Martin
A series of severe storms involving heavy rain and high winds over the weekend has resulted in flash flooding, landslides, washouts, property damage and much debris left behind for cleanup crews in southwest Wisconsin and northeast Iowa. The danger isn’t over either, as one to three inches of additional rain is forecast for both Monday and Tuesday this week.
Beginning Friday morning, June 21, a line of thunderstorms brought copious amounts of rain and 30-50 mph winds to the area. For this first round of storms, the National Weather Service of La Crosse reported 2 to 3.5 inches of rain.
During the early morning hours of Saturday, June 22, storms producing sporadic wind damage and heavy rain hit once again, with nearly seven inches falling in some places. Rivers responded very rapidly, especially on the lower end of the Kickapoo River in southwest Wisconsin and on the Upper Iowa and Turkey Rivers in northeast Iowa.
Severe damage resulted from both days, as storm sewers, bridges and culverts backed up all across the region. Numerous roads were washed out due to flash flooding, trees and power lines were downed and properties were left in ruins. Mudslides and large rocks slid down the hill along Highway 35 north of Prairie du Chien, causing the highway to be closed between County Roads N and F, from the Spring Lake Inn to Lynxville. The highway, as well as many rural roads around the area, remained impassable Monday morning.
Major flooding occurred in the communities of Boscobel, Gays Mills and Steuben in Wisconsin as well as Waukon and Lansing in Iowa. Many other communities have been combatting high water-related issues, though much of the water had receded by press time Monday.
The city of Prairie du Chien also experienced its share of flooding Saturday. Due to runoff and debris clogging culverts and bridges, the city’s streets and businesses’ parking lots had significant amounts of standing water on them.
Crawford County Emergency Management had a meeting Monday morning to assess its damage. No official estimates have been provided at this time, although Emergency Management Director Roger Martin figures the total in Crawford County will exceed $1 million in public infrastructure, not including damage to private property.
“We’ve seen mudslides, homes with mud and water in the basement, homes moved off their foundations, basements that collapsed,” Martin explained. “Eight homes and three businesses have been evacuated in Crawford County. We opened a shelter in Gays Mills, and the Red Cross assisted us with water, food and cleanup kits. Crawford County, Gays Mills, Steuben, and the city of Prairie du Chien have declared a state of emergency.”
Crawford County has set up a call center for those affected by the flooding. Citizens are asked to call 326-0266 to report any damage from the flood. Those in need of supplies or assistance can call and officials will attempt to alleviate any problems they can.
In Grant County, Boscobel suffered the brunt of the flooding and damage. Damage assessments are underway to determine how many homes sustained flooding. The Red Cross and Salvation Army are providing free cleanup kits for affected residents at Boscobel City Hall. Grant County has issued a call for volunteers to assist area residents with cleanup. They are requested to bring gloves and boots and report to the Boscobel City Hall for assignments. Boscobel residents are encouraged to contact city hall at (608) 375-5001 to report damages. Grant County residents outside of Boscobel should contact Grant County Emergency Management at (608) 723-7171.
Other impacted areas of Grant County include flooding in the areas of Woodman, Mount Hope, Patch Grove, Blue River and the surrounding areas. Also, a section of railroad track was washed out near Blue River, leaving canoeists stranded on the Wisconsin River. Crews responded and helped safely rescue 54 canoeists from the river.
In Allamakee County, Iowa, officials reported 10-11 inches of rain in some areas and heavy flooding as well. A shelter was opened at the Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waukon. More than 80 people were evacuated from the campground units at Yellow River State Forest.
Park Ranger Rylan Retallick said, “The car which was swept under the bridge Saturday is now washed away. We can’t find it. All the picnic tables in that campground are gone. Fire rings anchored in concrete were rolled 50-75 yards away.”
The Harpers Ferry Community Center is providing cots and sleeping quarters as needed. The Red Cross and Allamakee County Emergency Services are also providing food and water.
Regional highway department crews, fire fighters, police, and other available staff have been working feverishly all weekend to clear roadways from debris and check on the welfare of residents. Updated details about damage estimates, road closures and more will be reported in the next issue of the Courier Press as well as at www.pdccourier.com and on Facebook.