FEMA Crews Survey Flood Damage In Western Wisconsin

State, County Officials Say Communities Need Federal Disaster Funding To Rebuild

Hope Kirwan/WPR

Crews from the Federal Emergency Management Agency continue to assess flood damage to 12 counties in western Wisconsin.

Last week, Gov. Scott Walker requested FEMA complete a preliminary assessment of the damage in 12 counties impacted by flash flooding in September. It’s the second time this year Walker has asked the agency to survey damage from flooding in the state.

Craig Ceschi, FEMA Public Assistance team leader, said their assessment will help determine whether the region is eligible for a federal disaster declaration and the funding that comes with it.

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“We’re going out to the individual communities to find out if their damages meet the per capita costs to get a full-blown declaration,” Ceschi said.

Walker will then have the opportunity to request a federal disaster declaration similar to the one received by counties in northern Wisconsin in August.

Ceschi said FEMA is hoping to finish surveying damage this week but it could take until the end of the month for counties to receive a declaration.

Crews from the Federal Emergency Management Agency assess damage done by flooding last month to a dam near Viroqua. Hope Kirwan/WPR

Ceschi joined representatives from Wisconsin Emergency Management and Wisconsin Department of Transportation on a tour of flood damage in Vernon County today.

It was one of the areas most impacted by flooding in late September, with an estimated $7 million in damage to public infrastructure.

Vernon County Emergency Management Director Chad Buros said he’s hopeful the damage is sufficient to receive federal funding.

“We need it pretty bad,” Buros said. “Some of these communities have dealt with (flooding) three of four times in the last eight years, so it’s been really hard on them financially and just their everyday lives.”

Buros said if the county doesn’t qualify for aid, many damaged roads will have to be fixed just enough to be passable instead of addressing underlying problems.

“If there’s another disaster or something that comes along, if it hasn’t been put back to at least the way it was, it will open it up for a bigger chance for damage,” Buros said.

Two of the largest projects surveyed today included $1.5 million repair to a Yttri/Primmer dam near Viroqua and a bridge repair on County Road JJ near Readstown that could cost up $750,000.

The current FEMA assessment only includes public infrastructure, but many residents in the 12 counties are also dealing with extensive damage to homes and businesses.

“A lot of people lost their homes, a lot of people are still trying to clean them out, a lot of them have bridges to get to their homes, a lot of damage that way too so we’re trying our best to find options for them,” Buros said.

Buros said residents in Vernon County have reported around $3 million in damages to private land or buildings. He said county officials are looking for grants or low interest loans to help residents rebuild