ELROY — Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker visited Elroy as part of his tour around the state visiting areas ravaged by flooding and other issues in the wake of recent severe thunderstorms.
Walker surveyed damage throughout the city of Elroy and met with emergency response personnel and volunteers Wednesday, August 29. Earlier in the afternoon, Walker declared a statewide state of emergency in response to the severe weather that left many communities in southern Wisconsin dealing with widespread flooding and storm damage.
The day prior, Walker declared a state of emergency for Juneau, Fond du Lac, La Crosse, Monroe, Vernon and Washington counties. A state of emergency was declared for Dane County last week due to flooding and storm damage.
“I did a statewide declaration today, just because there had been so many additional counties that are on the verge of being added,” Walker said. “So instead of doing it piecemeal, we’re doing it all at once.”
According to Walker, the state will apply for federal assistance to go toward affected areas. If the state does receive federal aid, Walker anticipated the money going toward repairing damaged homes, small businesses and public infrastructure — namely bridges and roads.
Walker visited a host of other communities and areas in addition to Elroy throughout the day Wednesday, including Viroqua, Coon Valley, Westby, Ontario, Reedsburg, Baraboo and the Jersey Valley dam, which was breached in the storms. He said seeing the damage firsthand put into perspective just how widespread the devastation is from the storms.
“(The devastation) was just huge,” Walker said. “Just seeing the stuff all across the area. A good example is over at the Jersey Valley dam. Even the pictures don’t give it justice just how massive the gap is there.”
As for the recovery efforts in Elroy, Fire Chief Scott Schultz said things have settled down enough to the point where the main focus can be getting resources to those who need it.
“It’s calming down,” Schultz said. “Now, hopefully we can get resources for the people (affected). We’ve got three houses down here where the foundations are completely rocked out from underneath.”
Schultz also noted that recovery efforts were helped somewhat by the fact that the flood water was receding fairly quickly. While he believes the initial floods were worse than those the area suffered in 2008, the water didn’t stick around as long as it did a decade ago.
“In 2008, it wasn’t, in my opinion, as bad, but (the water) hung here longer,” Schultz said. “Either way, the damage is done, but at least we can get in, the city can start working and the fire department can start helping people. Otherwise, we’re kind of standing here twiddling our thumbs because there’s only so much we can do until the water recedes back.”
But with the potential for more rain in the forecast in the coming days, state officials will continue to closely monitor the situation and offer what assistance they can.
“Obviously, our number one concern is safety,” Walker said. “We want to make sure people are safe and start giving any assistance we can, whether it’s with state patrol, National Guard, even things like swift boats that we have with the DNR.”