Residents dig out from storm damage as floodwaters rise in Columbia and Marquette counties

August 30, 2018

ENDEAVOR — While residents of Endeavor were counting many fortunate near misses in the aftermath of Tuesday’s storms, there remained the looming threat of rising floodwaters.

Dump trucks and pickups rolled out of the village one after another loaded with debris.

Practically every road south of Highway 23 was closed due to either washouts or downed power lines after the storm Tuesday, according to Marquette County Highway Commissioner Brian Trebiatowski. Crews worked through the night on repairs.

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday many roads had been re-opened with exceptions. The Department of Transportation announced closures of Highway 23 in Briggsville and Highway 22 south of Montello. The closure of Highway D between C and M has been extended through the Packwaukee Causeway, with restricted truck and commuter traffic between Highways M and F.

“Power has not been restored to the whole village yet, but they are close,” said Endeavor Fire Chief Mike Bordeau. “There are still quite a bit of trees down on power lines and stuff like that in the village and outside the village.”

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, Alliant Energy reported three outages, affecting about 50 customers in Endeavor. In Montello, 32 customers were without power with restoration expected about 9 p.m. In harder-hit Packwaukee, 252 customers were without power with the cause of the outage still being assessed.

On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency for the entire state to respond to ongoing issues of storm damage, torrential downpours, flooding and tornadoes.

Near misses

“We did close the Red Cross shelter in Endeavor and they were moved out to the high school in Montello,” said Bordeau. “There have been no reported injuries whatsoever. There was one building in downtown Endeavor that was partially collapsed. It was an abandoned building.”

On North Lakeview Avenue, Dale Duncan was pulling down sections of an awning dangling above the gaping hole of a former storefront.

“A neighbor called and said that the front of the building was out on the street and he couldn’t see too far in front of his face because of the rain and wind,” said Duncan. “It was very intense.”

The loss was minimal, since Duncan already planned to tear down what had been damaged, so the high winds simply moved up his timetable.

“It wasn’t that bad,” said Duncan. “Like I said, it was basically a cleanup, but there were a lot of trees that went down in town and boy, it hit hard here.”

Endeavor firefighters made their way between houses where there was more damage and offered assistance to residents clearing debris and cutting up trees.

“We’re going to keep helping people with their yards, clearing big trees and stuff like that, but everything is sort of winding down and trying to get back to normal, very slowly,” Bordeau said.

Reported tornado

As initial photos and damage assessments were shared Tuesday evening, so were rumors of a potential tornado, though the National Weather Service has not confirmed a touchdown in Marquette County.

“There were some reports and members of the fire department did report seeing a tornado,” Bordeau said.

The National Weather Service has survey teams on the ground, but it will take time before Marquette County residents get an official analysis of what caused so much damage amid the recent storms.

“We have a survey team out today, but they are further east where we had known structural damage,” meteorologist Ben Miller said Wednesday morning. “We’re going to do Fond du Lac and a portion of Sheboygan and northern Dodge County and then they will survey Green Lake and Marquette tomorrow.”

There were no reports of structural damage in Columbia County.

“There was a line of storms that came through and they produced anywhere between 50 and 80 mph winds,” Miller said. “I’m not sure what was going through (Portage), but I believe the tornadic circulations were farther north.”

Tuesday afternoon, Endeavor resident Lori Johnson pointed to a downed tree that snapped off in her yard, landed on her driveway and splayed into the street, crushing her plastic waste containers, but nothing more. The tree fell between her house and her garage.

On West Logan Street, a massive tree came down in the front yard of another two-story house, where the top branches brushed against the house, but left it structurally unharmed.

On Cheney Avenue, not far from the Endeavor/Moundville fire station, Donna Myers credited living on a slight incline for the lack of damage to her property. Many downed tree branches littered her yard but nothing more.

“Other people got hit much worse than I did,” Myers said. “My dog and I went to the basement and tried to decide who was more scared.”

Property owner William Clark along Highway CX said Tuesday morning he was one of the last in his area to get power restored while Alliant Energy crews repaired the power lines near his home. Clark had been driving on Interstate 39 when the storm hit, and pulled over to the side of the road during the worst parts.

“There was structure to it and I saw the funnel cloud,” said Clark, whose large family hid in the basement while he was stopped on the interstate for about 20 minutes. “I laid on my horn to get other people to stop driving.”

Clark’s basement flooded with 13 inches of water, which he and his sons had cleared out by about 11 a.m. He spent the rest of the morning picking up branches.

Rebecca Timme and her son, Sawyer, also spent their morning picking up tree branches in their yard along Harvard Avenue. During the storm, a tree landed on Sawyer’s car, denting it and damaging a headlight.

“It’s still drivable,” said Sawyer, who was home alone during the storm. He’d been advised to go to his grandmother’s house during the storm, but stayed because he didn’t want to leave his family’s two dogs. “It was the worst storm I’d ever seen. I opened the door for just a second and listened to the wind and the rain. There was such an intense amount of rain.”

Waters on the rise

Wednesday morning street signs were up around Portage warning of standing water. In low-lying Blackhawk Road, portions of the road were closed and under water.

The Wisconsin River at Portage was measured at 15.4 inches at 1 p.m., well into the “action” stage starting at 12.7 feet. The “minor” flood stage begins at 17 feet . The National Weather Service expects a crest of 17.7 feet Thursday afternoon, just four inches from the “moderate” flood stage of 18 feet.

The record high of the river, according to National Weather Service records, is 20 feet, reached Sept. 28, 2010.

Daily Register reporter Noah Vernau contributed to this report.

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