People encouraged to help one another following floods in Sauk, Juneau counties
As flooded communities in hard-hit Sauk and Juneau counties begin the recovery process, officials say it’s important for people to look out for each other.
“Make sure you’re checking on your neighbors and looking out for people in your communities,” said American Red Cross of Wisconsin spokesman Justin Kern.
Local Red Cross shelters are not currently in need of supplies, he said, but people should check in with local officials to find out how they can help. He said those interested in volunteering or donating should visit redcross.org.
Due to the danger of floodwater contamination, Sauk County Emergency Management Director Jeff Jelinek said it’s not yet safe for volunteers to help with sandbagging efforts throughout the area.
“We would love to use them,” he said. “But right now it’s just too dangerous.”
The Greater Sauk county Community Foundation has established a disaster relief fund, to which people can contribute online at greatersauk.org.
Jelinek said those interested in volunteering in the coming weeks can contact his office at 608-355-3200. That’s the same number Sauk County residents should call to report damage.
“Volunteers may be needed when we start cleaning up,” he said.
Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in Dane County following record rainfall that began Aug. 20 and caused flash flooding and damage throughout the area.
On Tuesday, after severe storms led to additional flooding, Walker added Fond du Lac, Juneau, La Crosse, Monroe, Vernon and Washington counties to the declaration.
Jelinek said Wednesday he will submit paperwork to the state requesting the addition of Sauk County to the list. The Sauk County Board is expected to take up a resolution to formalize the declaration.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the county was using work-release inmates to assist with sandbagging efforts. Jelinek said water levels were decreasing in La Valle, but still rising in Reedsburg, Rock Springs, North Freedom and Baraboo.
During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, county health and safety officials said people should not come in contact with floodwater. They also discouraged people from driving around to view flood damage, saying first responders need roads to be clear in case of emergencies.
Juneau County hit
In Juneau County, the cities of Elroy and Mauston, and the villages of Wonewoc and Union Center were hit the hardest.
As water seeped into streets and homes throughout Wonewoc on Tuesday, village staff began piling equipment on tables in case the municipal building flooded.
Fortunately, that structure was spared, but numerous homes were not. The western half of Wonewoc was evacuated as flood waters poured in, Village Administrator Lee Kucher said.
Kucher said the basements of dozens of homes sustained flooding and will need to be pumped. A furious current, he said, caused walls to collapse in three or four homes on West Street.
“We’ve never seen it come through town like this,” Kucher said, adding that the flooding within the village is worse than what occurred in the historic 2008 flood.
Village residents have been instructed to boil water until further notice. The village’s water treatment plant is flooded and inaccessible due to washed-out roads.
Kucher said those interested in volunteering with the recovery effort should contact him by calling the Village Hall.
Juneau County Emergency Management Director Gervase Thompson said he’s not yet asking for volunteers or donations, such as clothing or food.
There is no countywide volunteer registration, so Thompson encouraged people who are interested in assisting with cleanup efforts to reach out to their local officials to find out what they can do.
“I think it’s probably the worst flood we’ve had here, I don’t know in history, but in a long time,” Thompson said.
Many drivers who encounter closed roads have been driving around barricades and through flood waters, which Thompson said is very dangerous.
“Luckily nobody drove in and got swept downstream that I’m aware of,” he said. “I’m sorry it’s inconvenient, but you have to go someplace else and drive out of your way.”