Grave situation at Skogdalen Cemetery in Monroe County after flash flooding
Skogdalen Cemetery has been anything but peaceful since Monday, Aug. 27, when flash flooding tore the scenic valley apart and left a grave situation in a serene place.
Late Monday and into the early morning hours of Tuesday, an unprecedented amount of rain fell in a short period of time that resulted in the failure of three dams in Monroe County and two dams in Vernon County, along with heavy auxiliary spillway overflow from other feeder dams countywide.
The failed dams and heavy overflow resulted in flash flooding in townships and communities located below the compromised areas including the Coon Creek Watershed which has 14 dams in its region.
Located in the town of Portland in Monroe County, Skogdalen Church at 4315 Oakdale Ave., sits just off Hwy. P in Timber Coulee. The cemetery is located on the northeast side of the church. The rushing water from several of the compromised dams toppled 90 percent of the gravestone markers in Skogdalen Cemetery and ripped apart the road infrastructure in front of the church as it raged toward the Coon Creek. The raging water also knocked several homes further up the valley off their foundations leaving families displaced.
The church itself was protected by a line of trees directly behind the structure, which somehow survived the brunt of debris that remained after the water receded.
At the same time portions of the church cemetery were covered with debris five feet high, and the entire area resembled a war zone when flood waters finally receded and the cemetery and surrounding area were once again visible to the human eye. Gravestones, some weighing more than 1,000 pounds, were knocked off their foundations and scattered about, along with concrete pots and angelic fixtures that floating into the neighboring corn field.
The disturbing site was more than Gwen Siverhus and her family could bear knowing what was below all the debris was the resting place of their loved ones. So on Thursday, Aug. 30, they received permission from the church to begin removing the mounds of debris that covered the Siverhus family stones, including a Jet Ski and four-wheeler that floated downstream and landed in the cemetery on top of the family markers.
The removal process took hours and plenty of manpower from the extended family, but the reward was worth the effort when they finally dug deep enough and Gwen granddaughter, Mary Ellen yelled out that she had located the Siverhus marker. Gwen’s eyes filled with tears as she watched so many loving hands set the stone upright once again. The smile on her face was priceless along with her gratitude for everyone’s hard work.
For Gwen, the eight family plots surrounding the Siverhus marker represents her history, but in her heart she knows that her family legacy will live on through the people she loves and goodness in their hearts that will never be buried for long.
“It’s small miracles like this that make me appreciate family and the area we call home even more,” Gwen said as reached out and she touched the Siverhus family marker. Her husband, Glen, who passed away in 1997 can now rest in peace once again.
The Siverhus family is hoping other people will join in their efforts to restore the Skogdalen Cemetery to a place of solitude for those whom God has called home.
Anyone wishing to help should contact Westby Our Savior’s Lutheran Church or Skogdalen Church 608-634-4871.