Marquette County residents struggle as flooding persists

September 5, 2018

A week after tornadoes and straight-line winds tore through Marquette County, many residents still are struggling with damaged homes and flooded streets.

In Packwaukee, pairs of county highway vehicles blocked either end of the County Highway D causeway Tuesday morning over Buffalo Lake. The roadway recently was constructed, but officials say it will require re-evaluation, as water washed out part of the roadbed.

“Tornado, winds, damage, flooding, you can see it,” Amy Brisky said, shoes in her hand, after walking through the washed out area. “It has been crazy. You can’t go anywhere and you can’t do much.”

Although building damage was visible in downtown Packwaukee, the most severe damage was outside of town, Brisky said.

“Out across the lake here there are a lot of trees on damaged homes,” she said. “A lot of people’s trees got uprooted, a lot of roofs got ripped off, every tree in my yard is ripped up. I’ve never seen anything like this and I’ve lived here my entire life.”

With County Highway D closed, a quick trip from one side of the lake can take more than an hour.

Marquette County Highway Department Patrol Superintendent Byron Henke said he was concerned the roadbed had become saturated and “spongy.”

“We got a bunch of rain last night, so our guys are out checking to see if there are any more of them that need to be closed,” he said.

Residents of Montello face a similar situation when they try to get from one end of town to the other as Main Street, including bridges over the Montello and Fox Rivers, remains closed to traffic.

Everett Develde, who lives east of downtown, ventured out downtown to run errands and survey the damage.

“My property was completely under water, but it isn’t anymore,” Develde said, noting water was up to his home on Aug. 28. “The neighbors are still under water, but mine is dry now.”

Along Main Street, many residents had sandbags stacked up around their homes. Despite their best efforts, in many cases, water found its way through the temporary barriers.

Montello City Clerk Dawn Calnin said in addition to Red Cross cleaning kits, drinking water and supplies, the city is looking into offering dumpsters for public use later this week. Filled sandbags have also been provided on East Water Street and at the Marquette County Highway Department.

Pam Oestricher of Waupun was visiting friends in Montello this weekend when the water rose. As two sump pumps tried to keep up with water pressing into the basement of her friends’ house, she worked to help clean up. The owners are preparing for their daughter’s wedding this week.

Oestricher pointed out the back window, where algae could be seen floating up steps leading to the back door.

“It’s all the way up to the walls of the house,” Oestricher said. “Talk about what a disaster. Cleaning up all the slime is going to be a problem.”

To clean and disinfect, she carried six jugs of vinegar and six bottles of rubbing alcohol.

“Whatever’s going to be growing in the walls is going to be dangerous,” Oestricher said.

In the narrow, stone-walled basement, she pointed out the progress. Although water was freely flowing through a hole in the foundation, she pointed to a waist-high line on the wall, left as a high-water mark.

Once the water fully recedes and dries out, many residents are going to face a whole new set of questions about what to do next.

“The only house that has flood insurance is the yellow house next door,” Oestricher said of the nearby Main Street houses. “That’s because they lived through the ’08 flood.”

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