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Flooding Keeps Several Major Highways In Northern Wisconsin Closed

Waters Still Rising In Spots, No Word On Extent Of Damage

Danielle Kaeding/WPR

Law enforcement and road crews in northern Wisconsin are still trying to get a handle the damage from Monday evening’s storm.

Gov. Scott Walker has declared a state of emergency for Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Price, Sawyer and Washburn counties and at least eight major state highways remain closed due to flooding or washouts.

A powerful storm system dumped up to 10 inches of rain Monday night is now causing widespread flash flooding. State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Diana Maas said state and local highway officials don’t know how extensive the damage is.

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“We’re still waiting for water to recede in certain areas, so some of the damage we won’t be able to assess until the water is gone. So, it’s still all a moving target,” said Maas.

Bayfield County Sheriff Paul Susienka said the flood damage is the worst he’s seen in recent history.

“This amount of rain in that period of time is unheard of in many years,” he said. “In my career, the only thing I can compare it to was when, in 1989, when the Orienta Dam washed out in the Iron River.”

An Illinois man died there Tuesday after his car became submerged in a ditch on the side of the road. Bayfield County Highway Supervisor Tom Toepfer said crews have pinpointed problem roads.

“We’re working on them. I think that we’re going to have the roads open by the weekend except this Highway 63, which is a state issue,” said Toepfer.

Ashland County Sheriff Mick Brennan said east-to-west access on U.S. Highway 2 is cut off because the Bad River has flowed over its banks onto the highway.

“One of my deputies this morning had to take the big detour to come around so we can get law enforcement on the east side of the closure on U.S. 2,” he said.

Those driving from Ironwood or Hurley face a 2 ½-hour detour to get back on the main stretch. John Unger of Jacksonville, Florida said he was on his way back from Houghton, Michigan.

“We were taking a forest road and all of sudden the road’s closed. So we had to turn back and we had to go another way and turn back” he said. “Then we found a gentlemen at an old post office who was giving a lot of people a lot of directions.”

According to WISDOT the following state highways are closed:

Ashland County

  • US 2 is closed east of Odanah at Lake Road. Traffic detoured via US 51, WIS 77, WIS 13, WIS 77, US 63, and US 53.
  • US 2 at Denomie Creek near Bad River in Odanah is closed.
  • WIS 13 between Mellen and Ashland is closed. Use WIS 77, US 63 and US 53 and US 2 as alternative route.

Bayfield County

  • US 63 at Twentymile Creek near Grand View, north of Drummond is closed. No official detour posted.
  • US 63 near Bibon Swamp between Grand View and Mason is closed. No official detour posted.

Burnett County

  • WIS 35 north of Danbury at Riverside is closed. WIS 77 and US 53 as alternative route.
  • WIS 77 near Danbury as St. Croix River continues to rise. MnDOT has closed their bridge (MN 48/ WIS 77) west of Danbury.

Iron County

  • US 2 is closed east of Odanah at Lake Road. Traffic detoured via US 51, WIS 77, WIS 13, WIS 77, US 63, and US 53.
  • WIS 122 is closed north of US 2 at Parker Creek. No official detour posted.
  • WIS 122 between US 2 and WIS 77 is now open.
  • WIS 169 is closed between WIS 13 and US 2. No official detour posted.

Sawyer County

  • WIS 27 north of Hayward, off of WIS 77 near Smith Lake is now open.
  • WIS 63 in Hayward has water over the roadway but remains open to traffic.
  • WIS 27/ WIS 77 north of Hayward has water over the road but remains open to traffic.

Washburn County

  • WIS 77 at Oak Tree Drive to County Road G just east of Minong is closed.
  • WIS 77 at Old Bass Lake Road southwest of Minong is now open.
  • US 53 northbound lane, north of Palmer Drive, between Lampson and Minong is open to one lane for traffic.

WISDOT Spokeswoman Maas says the state has been in contact with federal emergency management personnel in hopes of getting help with recovery.

“With the governor declaring a state of emergency in the affected counties that helps us start the process to, hopefully, receive emergency relief funding but that’s a process and we’ve started those conversations,” said Maas.