Fri July 20, 2012
FEMA Calls Northern Wisconsin Flood Damage ‘Extensive’
The survey of flood damage continues by federal and state surveyors in Douglas, Bayfield and Ashland Counties. Although no firm numbers are being released yet, several small towns have already spent their entire annual budget trying to fix washed out roads and infrastructure.
Some towns have no money left and are trying to get bank loans for flood repairs. Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Hannah Vick says they're seeing lots of hardship: “It’s not easy, especially in some of the very small townships where there are not a lot of resources. But we’ve seen again and again that those folks did what it takes to make sure that the roads were safe, and if they weren’t safe then they were closed off so that people weren’t endangering themselves.”
Wisconsin Emergency Management’s Tod Pritchard has been on survey teams this week in Superior and Bayfield County. He says the damage from the June 20 flooding goes well beyond Douglas County into Bayfield County, “The roads took a tremendous hit. I mean, we saw damage all over the place: culverts washed out, roads that were impassable. Luckily, most of them have been re-opened but some of them are open only to four-wheel drive vehicles or just to emergency vehicles.”
Wisconsin Counties need to not only meet a $7.7 million public damage threshold to qualify for federal disaster relief money, but Vick says they consider cash-strapped areas trying to cope. “What FEMA’s looking at is not just numbers, we also want to see what the impact to the community is.”
Here are the “ifs” that remain: If flood damage tops $7.7 million in uninsured public property, if Gov. Walker asks President Obama for a disaster declaration, and if the President issues the declaration, then the federal government will pay for 75 percent of damage to public infrastructure and roads. The “ifs” could take a few weeks to play out.