Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Storm of epic proportions rolled through St. Croix and Pierce Counties

The county highway department was busy repairing damage to the approach and shoulders of the bridge on Highway 63 at County Road N south of Baldwin on Wednesday morning. The crews had all three bridge washouts on Highway 63 repaired by late Wednesday.

As many as 30 heifers belonging to Jon-De Farm and kept at the Mike Wiff place were swept downriver by flood water in the storm of August 17-18. As of Monday, all but two had been located.

The Woodville village crew surveyed the damaged at the bridge over the Woodville creek on Southside Drive, pictured above. The force of the water had cracked, heaved and washed away the asphalt on the west side of the bridge.

A major thunderstorm that dropped rain in epic proportions so heavy that one person who drove through it described it as a solid sheet of water, dropped as much as six or even seven or eight inches of water on portions of St. Croix and Pierce Counties late Tuesday evening, August 10 and lasting into Wednesday morning.
The storm raised creek, dry run and river levels higher than any time in living memory. Rushing water through waterways was so strong that bridges and approaches were washed away, large boulders were picked up and dropped downstream and a number of heifers were even swept away from their pasture.
In Baldwin, a number of apartment and condominiums mostly near the dry run by Fourth Avenue and the Comforts of Home also on Fourth Avenue, were all evacuated by Baldwin Police, EMS and United Fire Department personnel. Scores of homes had water in their basements from both storm water infiltration and wastewater backup. Dumpsters and cleaning company vans have been prevalent throughout the village in the aftermath of the deluge.
In Baldwin, Gary Newton, wastewater treatment plant operator, said the rain started after 10:00 p.m. and by 11:00 it was very heavy. He was summoned by an alarm at the plant about 11:30 and found high water levels. He summoned additional members of the village crew to assist with evacuations of apartments and condos in the vicinity of Fourth Avenue, Creekview Court and Willink Drive, including using the village’s loader with the basket mounted on the front.
United Fire and Rescue Department was called out and responded to two electrical transformers that were on fire, presumably because of lightning strikes, at Hillcrest and USH 63 and another at Clopay. That made the flooding worse because many people who relied on sump pumps were without power.
The Baldwin Area Emergency Medical Services had three emergency calls before the flooding problems started, and was summoned to the transformer fires.
After answering several calls for accidents resulting from flooding, just before 1:00 a.m. Wednesday, Baldwin EMS went to Comforts of Home on Fourth Avenue directly north of the dry run that had overflowed and was flooding the facility. After initially summoning two boats from Hudson and Roberts to assist in the evacuation, the water level subsided enough to get ambulances to the site and use them for the evacuation.
The Baldwin village crew and members of United Fire and Rescue assisted with the evacuation of individuals from apartments and condos located near the Fourth Avenue bridge.
People who were evacuated were taken to Baldwin Area Medical Center, to the village’s Municipal Center or to friend’s or relative’s residences.
EMS Chief Craig Nelson said that at one time all four of the Baldwin Area EMS ambulances were out on calls and in addition, two ambulances were called to assist from New Richmond, two from River Falls and one from Hudson. He noted that Spring Valley Fire and EMS was also out responding to multiple calls as was Glenwood City Fire and EMS.
One of the River Falls ambulances responded to a car crash and transported five or six injured people. New Richmond ambulances helped with evacuating Comforts of Home and also made a transfer from BAMC to United Medical Center in St. Paul.
Baldwin Police Chief Jim Widiker said he was called into Baldwin by officer Chad Gallmeier who was on duty Tuesday night. He said that he reached Baldwin sometime around 12:30 Wednesday morning and the rain has slowed to only a sprinkle. He said that on his way in, parts of both Rose Lane and 220th Avenue were under water. “Chad had already made arrangements with the village crew to bring the loader in to help with evacuations,” said Chief Widiker. “At the time Brad Boldt got the call to bring the loader, he was already on his way in the loader with the basket.”
Chief Widiker continued that both Baldwin Area EMS, United Fire and village crew members were in the vicinity of Fourth Avenue when he arrived. The bridge was completely underwater.
Later that morning about 4:40 Joe Meyer of Day and Nite Towing was traveling south on USH 63, heading home after towing several vehicles that had been washed off roads. As he went over the 63 bridge between Fern Drive and Spruce Street in his flatbed he heard a strange noise, a bump, that wasn’t there before when he crossed the bridge. “I’d been over the bridge a couple of times earlier in the night,” he said. “The water had been less than a foot from the bridge deck, earlier, maybe at midnight.” This time after hearing the “bump” he stopped to investigate and discovered the washout of the bridge’s approaches and about a three foot diameter hole in the asphalt. Behind him was his father Glenn in another tow truck and the two of them used their trucks to block the bridge while they called 9-1-1.
Prior to discovering the washed out approaches “semi trucks had gone across it,” said Glenn. “Hudson mutual aid fire trucks had gone across it.”
While they were waiting for help they could hear collapsing under the approach and more asphalt fell into the void. Baldwin Police Chief Jim Widiker arrived with another officer and they started to block the road, but while they were doing so another car went over. “To think that six inches of asphalt held a car up,” said Chief Widiker. “I could see where he bottomed out as he went across.
“I was really impressed when I was out there and worked with everyone,” said Chief Widiker. “You can train and sit down and do round table training that helps you prepare for things like this. But this has never happened before in the 22 years that I’ve been here. But everything came together and it worked well. From my standpoint, it was impressive to see how prepared everyone was for this. I’ve always been proud of fire, EMS and public works here, but to see how everything came together was impressive. I think it’s also a tribute to our smaller community. The St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department and Hammond Police Department were also helping out.”
St. Croix County Highway Commissioner Tim Ramberg said an initial assessment on Wednesday found about 50 instances of roads, bridges and culverts damaged, ranging in severity from minor to complete wash-outs. By Friday afternoon he said the number had risen to 70, with some just gravel over the road but others more serious.
Commissioner Ramberg said southeast of and south Baldwin are the areas that were most affected.
Inspections of structures continues, noted Ramberg. “We’re looking at the structures and for the most part the structures are sound,” but in many instances it is the approach to the structure that has suffered the most damage. He urged people to be cautious around bridges and culverts and be alert for damage. He said grass laying down is a good indicator of a strong current.
Coincidently, this is the year of a mandatory bridge inspection for St. Croix County, said Commissioner Ramberg, so assessments will continue.
After prioritizing the damages after the storm, the problems that affected the most traveled roads were first fixed. Commissioner Ramberg said on Friday afternoon that all state and county roads were open, although many still needed blacktop. He added that most town roads were also fixed with the exception of maybe six, and he hoped they would be finished by Tuesday or Wednesday of this week at the latest.
One of the more curious and compelling images was of a number of heifers being washed down the Rush River near Martell. The heifers, about 30 of them, belonged to Jon-De Farms and were at the Mike Wiff place. As of Monday morning all but two of them had been located.
In the Village of Baldwin there is no accurate count of the numbers of residences and other structures damaged in the flooding. However, Village Administrator Patti Glockzin said that residents are encouraged to report damage. As of Monday noon about 76 reports had been received of varying degrees of damage, but mostly of basement flooding.
The storm will not qualify any of the municipalities for federal disaster aid, because the threshold for damage has not been reached. However, Administrator Glockzin said Baldwin may be eligible for Wisconsin disaster aid for reimbursement of up to 70% of its expenses. She added that thus far the estimated cost of repairing village bridges has been set at $66,000.
Baldwin Telecom Manager Larry Knegendorf said the company had 93 trouble tickets as a result of the deluge, mostly problems related to lightning strikes and washed out cables. On Friday he said “we are getting the customers back on line.”
In the Village of Baldwin dumpsters were available for residents on Thursday and Saturday for materials that got wet and weren’t salvageable. Dumpster availability may be extended.
St. Croix County Emergency Management has a hot line available for residents to phone in damage to their residences, 888-305-3555. It will be answered by a recorded message that will prompt the caller to leave a name, address, phone number and type of damage such as sewer back-up, flooded homes or washouts.
One recommendation is that materials that were soaked by the storm and are not dried within 48 hours should be discarded. In most instances drywall and carpet soaked by water will need to be removed, the area dried out and then drywall and carpet replaced.
Other information about mold, tetanus immunizations and sanitation and hygiene are available at the Municipal Center. The information also lists three web sites for reliable information. They are:;; and

Baldwin Area EMS timeline of events August 10 - 11

Baldwin EMS was kept very busy during the rains the evening Tuesday, August 10 and the early morning of Wednesday, August 11.
At 8:12 p.m. dispatched to a single car crash at Co. Rd. E and 250th St. One person was transported to BAMC. Cleared at 9:21 p.m.
At 9:48 p.m. dispatched to a medical call in the Village of Hammond, one person was transported to United Hospital. Cleared at 11:51 p.m.
At 11:52 p.m. dispatched to BAMC to transfer a patient to Regions Hospital. Cleared at 1:39 a.m.
At 12:02 a.m. called to a transformer fire at 10th Ave. and Hillcrest St. Cleared at 12:57 a.m.
At 12:42 dispatched to 233rd St. and 55th Ave. for a car washed off the road. Cleared at 1:12 a.m.
At 12:43 a.m. notified of a home filling with water at 304 Co. Rd. Y. Occupants were evacuated.
At 12:50 a.m. dispatched to the area of 2558 80th Ave for water over a bridge with a car in the water. One person was transported to BAMC.
At 12:53 a.m. requested to respond to Comforts of Home at 1880 4th Ave. to evacuate residents from the flooded building. 14 residents were evacuated and transported to BAMC. The last resident was removed at 3:31 a.m.
At 1:33 a.m. dispatched to Co. Rd. T at 18th Ave. for a car under water with a person hanging from a tree branch. One person was transported to BAMC.
At 1:50 a.m. dispatched to Southside Drive area in Woodville to assist in evacuating residents. Cleared at 2:34 a.m.
At 1:50 a.m. dispatched to 431 250th St. for a tipped over LP tank.
At 2:59 a.m. dispatched to 110th Ave. at 250th St. for a single vehicle rollover. Two people were transported to Regions Hospital and one to Westfields.
At 5:16 a.m. dispatched to 662 200th St. for a gas leak.
At 5:39 a.m. dispatched to a car that struck a round bale in the roadway at County Road YY near Hwy. 63. One person was transported to BAMC.
Baldwin EMS was assisted by ambulances from New Richmond and River Falls. In total eight ambulances were used during the flooding.