GAYS MILLS - The entire Kickapoo River Valley just went through a disastrous, record level flood. In Gays Mills, the river level reached 22.05 feet. Normally, the river is measured at about nine feet. Flood stage, when the river goes over its banks, is 13 feet. The previous record stage for local flooding, set on June 9, 2008 was 20.44 feet. That ‘08 flood was supposedly a 100-year flood. So this was a humdinger, happened fast, and was quite unexpected.
Following are some observations during and in the wake of the latest flood.
We are blessed with so many rock solid local citizens who are quick to help their friends and neighbors in time of need. They are truly people “to ride the river with.” People just show up to help and pitch in because they can and because they care.
Friends and relatives from some distance appear with their work clothes on. Strangers show up and want to help. Their very presence and support is as important as any physical help rendered.
Food is a vital need and the last thing on survivors’ minds. It appears from near and far, and the willing hands to prepare and serve it.
Hats off to the Gays Mills Fire Department, village employees, Ocooch Mountain Rescue Squad, and Crawford County Highway Department and sheriffs staff, who just know what to do and do it with dispatch.
Any flood is trouble. It’s disrupting. When it gets into your home and possessions it’s shocking and traumatic. Just about everybody I know complains “I’ve got way too much stuff.” A flood forces you to “thin your collection.” Things that get “flood wet” must often get jettisoned. Even and especially stuff you might not have been ready to donate to Goodwill or put in a yard sale. It hurts.
People who haven’t been through a flood don’t “appreciate” the mud factor. Floodwater is, at the least dirty, and at worst dangerous with sewage, fuel and chemicals in it. The mud itself is a unique material. When it is allowed to dry it’s like paint or glue and about ten times as hard to get rid of than when it is still mud.
The piles of debris placed on the curb after a flood are astounding. The sheer quantity and variety of heavy, disintegrating goods is one reason folks walk around with the shell-shocked looks. Thankfully, crews were quick to get the ruined refuse removed quickly and loaded into an impressive supply of dumpsters. Out of sight and out of mind. It makes moving on considerably easier.
Here’s an ironic thing: flood victims often welcome a little rain after a flood recedes. Key word little of course. A rinsing rain does help to freshen up lawns and streets and spirits, even though it was rain that caused the problem in the first place. People who have been affected by a flood watch the skies and weather with some apprehension for quite a while after a flood event.
After the 1978 flood, an article appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal covering the event. The reporter commented that residents weren’t bothered unduly by floods since they had weathered other such events over the years. He said they were “inured to floods“. I took that to mean we all have “flood inurance“. I hope our policy covered this one.