Work continues to reopen flood-damaged highways in NW Wisconsin
Wisconsin Highway 122 in Iron County has reopened to traffic -- a week ahead of schedule -- as crews work to repair flood-damaged roads in Northwestern Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Highway 122 in Iron County has reopened to traffic - a week ahead of schedule - as crews work to repair flood-damaged roads in Northwestern Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, federal emergency management officials are continuing to assess the damage as the first step in the state applying for federal aid.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation reported Thursday that the stretch of Highway 122 from U.S. 2 to the Michigan state line is now open with a temporary gravel surface; drivers should expect some lane closures as paving operations begin.
The highway is part of the access route to Saxon Harbor - but the harbor's marina, campground and boat launches are closed, and will remain closed the rest of the season - after severe flood damage caused by torrential rain July 11-12.
The flooding caused several deaths and left damage to homes and infrastructure estimated at more than $46 million.
Among other flood-damaged highways in the region:
- U.S. Highway 63 remains closed near Grand View, with work to repair flood damage underway. WisDOT is expecting the highway to reopen in mid-August.
- State Highway 13 remains closed between Mellen and Highway 112 south of Ashland because of multiple washouts. No estimate for when the highway will reopen.
- State Highway 169 remains closed from near Mellen to U.S. Highway 2. The highway is slated to fully reopen by the end of September.
A number of town and county roads also washed out during the storms and remain closed. Authorities urge drivers to watch out for - and obey - road closed signs.
Many counties are facing repair bills in excess of what they would normally spend on road work in one year, said Tod Pritchard of Wisconsin Emergency Management. This week's damage assessment "is where the counties get to tell the state of Wisconsin and FEMA, 'OK, this is how much damage we have, this is really what it's going to cost to fix that,' " he said.
"This is the first opportunity that FEMA has had to come out and not only look at some of those damages, but also verify a lot of those damages," said FEMA's Troy Christianson.
Pritchard said he expects a final report to be delivered to Gov. Scott Walker within the next two weeks. Walker will then decide whether to apply for a federal disaster declaration.
A declaration opens the door for northern Wisconsin counties to receive federal funds to help with repairs.
Meanwhile, county officials are beginning to tally the damage to private property. Pat Sanchez of Sawyer County Emergency Management said some damage to homes is only being discovered now.
"When the citizens are cleaning out their basements, they are finding out they have structural damage," Sanchez said. "Once they got some of the stuff cleaned out, there's still water pouring into basements of some of these people."
Wisconsin Public Radio contributed to this report. Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard in the Twin Ports at 91.3 FM or online at wpr.org/news.