Major highways remain impassable after flooding
By Correne Martin
Heavy rains continue to drown the landscape and add more insult to injury, as the late June storm damage to public infrastructure as well as private property in Crawford County is now estimated to be in the millions of dollars.
As of press time, Gov. Scott Walker was expected to tour local storm damage Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s in the $4 million range for public roads and bridges,” Crawford County Emergency Management Director Roger Martin said, “and estimates are just shy of $340,000 in personal property damage, and that number is continuing to rise.”
In less than one week, from June 20 to June 26, the region has received as much as 13.09 inches of rain (Boscobel DNR Forestry Station). According to the National Weather Service of La Crosse, since the beginning of the five-day period, 9.68 inches of rainfall has been reported in Prairie du Chien, 8.44 in Soldier’s Grove, 7.74 in Gays Mills, 6.85 in Elkader, 5.3 in McGregor, and 4.26 in Steuben.
Due to the rapid rainfall, flash flooding and high winds, storm sewers, culverts and bridges have easily become compromised. Flooded waterways, mud and trees have consumed banks and fields and devastated homes. Cleanup crews have been working around the clock to remove landslides and debris, only to cringe at the next day’s forecast for more precipitation, high winds and large hail.
Drier weather is expected later this week, but that won’t undo the damage that’s already resulted.
River levels, especially on the Mississippi, may take weeks before they begin to fall, and major highways will be closed for weeks as crews work to make them passable once again. Many rural roads also remained closed to all except local traffic.
As of press time, major Highways 35 north of Prairie du Chien and 60/61 on the Crawford County side near the Boscobel bridge were closed until further notice.
Also Old State Highway 60 in Bridgeport Township is closed for an unknown amount of time due to a mudslide and an exposed gas line.
“We’re working on Highway 35 and Highway 60/61 now, but it could be a long time before they become passable,” Crawford County Highway Commissioner Dennis Pelock said. “The southbound lane on 35 is undermined next to the railroad tracks. We’re working on a contract and trying to decide whether to bring stop lights in there or something else to make it passable again.
“We’re working to remove debris on 60/61, but the hillside is so unstable. It’s going to take some time.”
Crawford County Emergency Management met with officials from the city of Prairie du Chien and other communities/agencies Tuesday afternoon to pre-plan for the severe thunderstorm forecast for Tuesday night and Wednesday.
“We have a list of shelters if we need them. We also talked about evacuation if it becomes necessary and discussed areas of concern as we move forward,” Martin said.
Residents who are seeking cleanup assistance, who would like to report storm damage on their property, or who would like to volunteer to help clean up are asked to contact the emergency management office at (608) 326-0266.