Torrential rains over night last Tuesday and into Wednesday morning had everyone on the edge of their seat.
The muddy Kickapoo River kicked up its heels and swelled over its banks in many places, including the dam in Gays Mills where it was nearly to the bridge.
Crawford County Highway Commissioner Dennis Pellock noted that things were in much better shape than they could have been.
“Crawford County faired pretty well,” Pellock observed. “We had some damage, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.”
The damage Pellock spoke of included a mudslide, some rocks falling and a bit of ground that gave way.
“We have crews out there cleaning up now, but it really isn’t too much,” Pellock explained earlier this week. “I was pretty happy when it was all said and done, I had been up all night with calls from the sheriff’s department and had guys out cleaning up the road, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.”
Crawford County Ag Agent Vance Haugen acknowledged there was some damage to crops in last week’s big rainstorm, but said he was “really surprised there wasn’t more damage.”
Haugen said rain amounts varied from two to four to six inches and even more in the county. He said reports seemed to indicate the northern and southern parts of the county both had larger rainfall amounts.
Of course, nowhere in the county was it as bad as Decorah, Iowa where the amount exceed eight inches. Haugen saw the result firsthand. He said there were 1,000 acres of land underwater at one point in the Decorah area.
The local ag agent believes the fantastic growing season to date and the large healthy crops may have had a role in protecting the area from worse damage.
The leaves of the crops slowed the water from reaching the ground and causing more erosion, as it might have had it come in early summer. The crops served the same purpose as cover crops, shielding the ground from the heavy rain and wind and slowing the rate of runoff.
Nevertheless, Haugen noted there were a few areas with a foot-and-a-half to two-foot gullies.
“Gully erosion bothers me,” Haugen said. Actually, it probably bothers everyone, especially the landowners.
Well, the heavy rains are growing crops and in some cases causing problems. Haugen noted that some crops in lower areas were destroyed by the water, but most were fine.
Although plants may have been underwater it was only for a certain amount of time and in most cases that wasn’t long enough to hurt them, according to the ag agent.
The tall corn had ears well above the water. There can be problems going forward with fungal diseases in the soybeans and alfalfa.
Alfalfa in particular “does not like damp feet” and in some cases hayfields were matted down by the storm, according to the ag agent.
“Overall it has been an outstanding growing year,” according to Haugen. “While it remains to be seen how the harvest goes, there could be a record crop in the county this year.”
As for last week’s storm, Haugen said he was “astonished we didn’t have worse damage.”
The harvest is about to begin with farmers putting up corn silage in a week or two, Haugen explained. In a month, there will be some high moisture corn harvested. Then in six to eight weeks there will be the beginning of the grain harvest with some early shell corn and then soybeans.
Although the potential for a great harvest exists, there can always be unforeseen problems, Haugen noted.
“It’s not in the bin yet,” the local ag agent said.
While Crawford County Sherriff Dale McCullick readily acknowledged his department was kept busy by the heavy rainstorm last Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, he was quick to add “it wasn’t that bad.”
Sheriff’s deputies spent a lot of time directing traffic as the Crawford County Highway Department used their equipment to remove debris from the roadways.
“You really have to give credit to the men and women of the highway department,” McCullick said. “The did a great job responding in the early morning hours last Wednesday.”
The sheriff’s department assisted the highway department at a large slide on Highway 35 near Lynxville that had both lanes closed. However, the workers acted quickly to restore both lanes of traffic clearing a large amount of debris.
As for the storms and the problems they cause the highway department and sheriff’s department, it appears to be the new normal, according to the sheriff.
“You get used to it,” McCullick said. “It seems to be just constant now.”
Wednesday’s storm came just six days after the big storms of Thursday evening August 18 the week before.
The sheriff said that while the Mississippi River is up at the moment, it is not causing major problems. The situation with the storms is frustrating to the sheriff and his department.
“There’s no way to be proactive,” McCullick noted. “You just have to be reactive. You know the problem, but there’s nothing you can do to stop it from happening.”
As for last week’s storm, rain amounts and the ensuing problems seemed to vary from place to place in the county. McCullick said that while Prairie du Chien reported just two inches of rain, Wayne Jerrett on County S near Crow Hollow received seven inches and was battling a flooded basement. In Seneca where McCullick lives, there was six inches of rain reported.
The television and radio reports of the water rescue of a motorist on Highway 131 near County E at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday may have sounded a little more dramatic than the accident really was, according to the sheriff. What happened is local resident Rebecca Baumeister, 28, was driving a 2014 Chevy Impala southbound on 131 when she lost control. The car hydroplaned on 4 to 5 inches of water on the roadway and went into the ditch where water was up to the headlights.
Baumeister was able to get out of the vehicle and stand on the edge of the rushing water, according to the sheriff’s report of the accident.
The Crawford County Highway Department was on the scene immediately and assisted Baumeister, while reporting the accident to the sheriff’s department.
Crawford County Sheriff Dale McCullick repeated warnings of not going into water of uncertain depth.
‘Turn around—don’t drown,” McCullick said repeating a safety phrase about driving into standing water. The sheriff turned around in Steuben recently, when he faced flooded roadway.
“We’re just waiting now,” McCullick said. “It’s not a matter of if anymore storms are coming, it’s just a matter of when the next one will come along.”