7.57 inches of rainfall in PdC, floods cripple the area

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A filthy mess remained just north of County K along Highway 35.

Prairie du Chien public works crews focused on clearing the streets and helping homeowners on the eastern portion of the city nearest the bluff overnight Thursday into Friday. This is an alleyway in the vicinity of Buchanan and State streets.

Mud scraped from the streets of Prairie du Chien was piled in the vacant Blackhawk Junction space.

A crew of Burlington Northern Santa Fe workers were north of Prairie assessing and attempting to repair Mother Nature’s damage to their railroad tracks.

The bottom of Mill Coulee Road looked like a pond by late Thursday into Friday.

Burlington Northern started bringing in breaker rock to restabilize the railroad property.

More rock was hauled in and dumped in an effort to fix the railroad bed washout that occurred along Highway 35.

City employees skidsteered mud off of Cass Street in Prairie.

These chairs washed down Picatee Creek Road.

Cliffwood Drive near Prairie du Chien’s North Gateway Business Park was covered in sludge.

A cornfield on Cliffwood Drive was essentially leveled.

From County K and the Cliffwood intersection, facing east, another large pond formed.

A pump at Godden’s pit along Fremont Street worked to drain the retaining pond Thursday afternoon, Sept. 12, hours before heavy storms dumped rain and brought flash flooding to the community of Prairie du Chien.

An amazing amount of landowners’ belongings were relocated by rushing water, thick mud and moving debris.

A new lake north of Pedretti farms formed along County Highway 35.

Road construction signs for the County N road project were splashed with mud, likely from plows that were out pushing it off roadways like Highway 35.

A farm sign was overtaken by muck.

A driveway on Picatee Creek Road was still oversaturated Friday morning.

Fences all around looked like this one on Picatee Creek Road, snagged with uprooted grass and mud that floated in on the high waters passing by.

Some large trees came down Picatee Creek.

Trees and rocks washed up everywhere. Here, the pavement just south of the Spring Lake Inn was buckled by mud.

This railroad bridge along Highway 35, just a few miles north of Prairie, was undermined.

Workers at Solomon Corp. in the North Gateway Business Park had plenty of cleanup to do this morning.

The intersection of State and Cass streets was nearly impassable Friday morning, with numerous inches of mud making passing through very difficult.

By Correne Martin and Ted Pennekamp

Strong to severe thunderstorms rolled across the area from early afternoon through the late evening hours of Thursday, Sept. 12. The storms produced very heavy rainfall, resulting in flash flooding across portions of southwest Wisconsin and northeast Iowa, along with rises on many rivers and streams.

In addition, the National Weather Service of La Crosse reported that strong to damaging winds accompanied some of the storms (including one EF-0 tornado that touched down in rural Winneshiek County, Iowa, just south of the town of Ossian). 

This, of course, followed significant rains earlier in the week. The NWS reported rainfall totals of 8.64 inches in Guttenberg from Sept. 7-13, and 7.57 inches in Prairie du Chien, 6.30 inches in Boscobel, 6.15 inches in Lynxville, 5.90 inches in Steuben, 5.23 inches in Gays Mills and 5.11 inches in Elkader.

Many roads, including state highways 35 and 60, throughout Crawford County, became quickly impassable due to mudslides, rockslides, washouts, downed trees and power and phone lines, debris and unsafe bridges. The same went for the majority of Grant County, Clayton County and Allamakee County as well. The storms left behind sludge everywhere. 

The Crawford County Emergency Management Office responded with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, Prairie du Chien Police Department, Crawford County Highway Department, village and township road crews, fire departments and EMS personnel, Wisconsin DNR, and Wisconsin State Patrol.

The county received two tornado warnings. The sheriff’s department had an “all hands-on” call go out to be able to get the help to the county that was needed.

Crawford County Emergency Management Director Jim Hackett said there were numerous county residents who could not leave their properties by vehicle Thursday night and Friday morning, Sept. 13, due to heavy amounts of mud on their driveways and their residential roads.

Hackett said there were multiple residents on Mill Coulee Road who could not leave by vehicle until their driveways and the roads were cleared of mud by the Highway Department. There were four such residents on Lakota Trail Road in the town of Seneca and nine on Black Bow Creek Road.

“Multiple homes were affected and access from the road was restricted. We were able to determine everyone was safe and worked at getting them access to be able to leave their property,” Hackett said.

During the storm, one ginseng hunter was reported missing. His last phone call stated he was up to his knees in mud, and water was rapidly rising around him. Search and rescue operations with local fire departments were immediately organized. A request to the Wisconsin National Guard for air support was performed. Before the helicopter took off, the individual was located and retrieved.

On Friday, Prairie du Chien and Wauzeka-Steuben schools closed for the day, due to dangerous roadway travel. Other schools in the area called two-hour delays. 

City of Prairie du Chien public works officials assisted homeowners with cleanup throughout the day Friday, even deploying their snow plows to remove the muck. Cleanup efforts continued through the weekend, as people raked up debris, shoveled mud, washed what they could but otherwise just waited for the water to recede.

One homeowner on Buchanan Street in Prairie du Chien recognized the efforts the city has done in the past to alleviate floods and aftermath like this in her neighborhood. “I just think this was too much, another 100-year flood,” she stated.

As of Monday, Crawford County reported that, in Eastman Township, Mill Road, between County N and Plum Creek Road, remained closed due to a damaged bridge structure. Also, Morovits Hollow Road and Walker Road were closed for repairs due to washouts.

Damage and how to report

The initial public infrastructure damage is about 1.5 million in damage, according to Hackett. Not all townships and villages have reported at this time. 

Private infrastructure is being collected by calling 2-1-1. This information will then be passed on to Crawford County Emergency Management. Private homes and businesses are encouraged to report their damage. Crawford County will compile a list from the information given at 2-1-1. 

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