Midwest alert for flooding

BY PJ HELLER | IRONWOOD, Mich. | April 18, 2002

"The heat and rain have been a double blow to weather conditions here."

—Ed Fenelon

Residents in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and in northern Wisconsin today were keeping a wary eye on rivers, streams and dams after rain and then unseasonably warm weather caused a rapid snow melt resulting in flooding, road closures, and evacuations.

Residents were also watching the weather, with more showers and thunderstorms forecast for some areas.

In Marquette, Mich., where just two weeks ago the area set an all-time seasonal snowfall record of 301 inches, temperatures climbed into the low 80s earlier this week. The warm weather, combined with up to three inches of rain over the weekend, sent streams and rivers out of their banks.

"The heat and rain have been a double blow to weather conditions here," said Ed Fenelon, meteorologist in charge at the Marquette forecast office.

"It (rain) would definitely worsen the situation," added forecaster Jim Sieveking. "The ground is basically saturated. Any water at this point would be a bad thing."

Swollen rivers in the Iron Mountain, Mich., area were expected to crest Friday and flood warnings remained in effect for that area.

"Due to the extreme warm weather and melting snow pack, water levels are expected to rise several feet above current water levels," said a statement issued Tuesday by the Dickinson County Office of Emergency Services and the Florence County Sheriff's Division of Emergency Management. "The rivers are not expected to reach their peak for another 48 to 72 hours."

Evacuation notices were posted on residences near flood prone areas by the Florence County Sheriff's Department.

A flood warning was in effect through this afternoon for Gogebic County, which a day earlier was declared a disaster area along with Ironwood by Michigan Gov. John Engler. Some evacuations were reported and up to 60 National Guard troops were sent to help.

There were no reports of major residential damage although flooding was reported in a trailer park in Breitung Township near the Menominee River. About 20 to 30 homes were reported "impacted" by flood waters in the Wakefield area, where the Sunday Lake continued to rise.

Numerous roads throughout the area were closed due to flooding. No major injuries were reported.

The National Weather Service (NWS) reported that 10-foot sections on both sides of the Wood Bire-Presque Isle wildlife dam south of Marenisco had washed out and the dam was in danger of failing. Some homes along the Presque Isle River in Marenisco were evacuated, it said.

The weather service also warned about a possible failure of the McDonald Creel dam upstream of Ramsay, Mich., west of Wakefield.

In northern Wisconsin, several roads, highways and bridges were closed in Iron County due to flooding.

The weather service issued a flood watch for today in north central and northeast Wisconsin. Counties affected included Vilas, Oneida, Forest, Florence, and northern Marinette.

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