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As flood levels rise, Amnicon Lake residents do what they can

"No Wake Zone." That's what the sign in front of the Sydoriaks' garage warned to anyone trying to drive by their house. "We've been here for about 18 years and we haven't ever seen anything like this," said Tammy Sydoriak. "We're still pretty lucky.

Water creeps close to Billy Barnard's home on Amnicon Lake on Monday after a weekend of heavy rainfall. "I feel helpless because there's really nothing you can do," Barnard said. He was concerned if the water continued to rise he would need to move the jazz instruments in his boathouse to higher ground. Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com
Water creeps close to Billy Barnard's home on Amnicon Lake on Monday after a weekend of heavy rainfall. "I feel helpless because there's really nothing you can do," Barnard said. He was concerned if the water continued to rise he would need to move the jazz instruments in his boathouse to higher ground. Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com

"No Wake Zone."

That's what the sign in front of the Sydoriaks' garage warned to anyone trying to drive by their house.

"We've been here for about 18 years and we haven't ever seen anything like this," said Tammy Sydoriak. "We're still pretty lucky. Our house is on a hill."

Even though the weekend storms finally receded from the region, the water levels hadn't. Instead, the flooding in Douglas and surrounding counties continued to get worse - much to the dismay of homeowners on Amnicon Lake.

After retrieving the kayak paddles that had floated out of their boathouse, the Sydoriaks spent the afternoon helping their neighbors get their docks back. While their pole barn and garage weren't close to the lakeshore, both still had 2ยฝ feet of standing water surrounding the structures. John Sydoriak expects the excess water floated from the adjacent swamp across the road.

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"You normally don't see this. I mean you just don't," said Beckie Richards, another resident on the lake. "I've never seen it this high."

Richards waded out about 10 feet from her house before stepping over a ledge and pointing down at the ground.

"This is my riprap," she said. "It generally goes down about a few feet to the water."

Instead of a well-kept backyard, Richards' lawn chairs and firepit were completely submerged in water.

Like the Sydoriaks, Richards spent the day fishing out stray wood and bringing her neighbors' possessions back to their houses. While her house didn't sustain any water damage by mid-afternoon, her neighbor's house had. About 2 feet of water was sitting in their breezeway. Floating above their patio was another neighbor's boat.

"I couldn't get to work today because of this," Richards said. "I also have grandkids up here from Minneapolis. If I had known, I would have left them at home."

Her grandchildren spent the morning fishing in Richards' yard, managing to catch a fish she estimated to be almost a foot long.

Elevation above the shoreline seemed to be the deciding factor in whether or not someone's house was threatened. This was true for Eric Sorenson, whose house sits far from the lake. But it wasn't his house he was worried about.

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"When I had gone to bed last night, my dock and boat were right there," Sorenson said. "When I woke up, they had floated down the shore."

Sorenson just finished tying off his pontoon boat and dock to the shore.

"What can you do?" he asked.

Keith O'Brien also had to worry only about his dock and boat on the lake.

"We weren't expecting it to be so bad, but we probably should have," he said.

Billy Barnard, a jazz guitarist and professor with the University of Minnesota Duluth's music department, had it even worse. Water had deluged his yard and it was creeping close to his deck.

"I'm guessing it's not going to get much higher. But, that's a guess," Barnard said. "If it keeps coming, then I have to get this stuff to safety."

That "stuff" includes myriad amplifiers, guitars and saxophones he owns that are all stored in the pole barn threatened by the water.

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"I feel helpless because there's really nothing you can do," he said. "If it wants to get better, it'll get better. But if it wants to get worse, it'll get worse."

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