FEMA assesses Western Wisconsin storm damage

Vernon County hopes for federal aid

It’s been a few weeks since floods damaged much of Western Wisconsin, but it is far from being forgotten. Representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency are touring all the flood damage in Western Wisconsin with state and local emergency crews.

Local officials estimate it will cost $14 million to fix the public infrastructure damage alone in western Wisconsin, money the local governments didn’t budget for.

A group toured Vernon County Thursday, looking at just public infrastructure like roads and bridges in the preliminary assessment.

“Today is really the first step on the path to potentially asking for federal disaster declaration,” Tod Pritchard, public information officer at Wisconsin Emergency Management, said. “There’s a tremendous amount of damage.”

It’s a long path that that winds all around Vernon County and Western Wisconsin, and one that emergency management teams are traveling to check out the damage.

“Vernon County got hit really hard,”state Rep. Lee Nerison (R-96th district) said. “I honestly think they got hit harder than ’07 and ’08. So, hopefully we can get in and let them see what kind of damages that there are so we can get help.”

“Generally the affected area has a compilation of their damages for us to look at before we go out, then the next step is to go out and take a look at some of these sites,” Craig Ceschi of FEMA’s Region 5 office said.

“The bottom line is we want to walk away with everyone agreeing that the damage is X amount of dollars,” Pritchard said.

After officials have those figures, they’ll present to them to Gov. Scott Walker. He can then ask for a federal disaster declaration, which is the next step in getting federal aid.

“When we make our case for this disaster-aid, it’s not just the money, it’s the impact of the community. It’s what happened, how did it affect people?” Pritchard said. “It’s about how it changed lives.”

With roads still closed and bridges out, many are hoping the path to federal aid is an easy one.

“Just your day to day living is a hardship, a lot of times just to get things done,” Nerison said.

Ceschi said they hope to wrap up the preliminary damage assessments by the end of the week.

He said that it may take until the end of the month before counties find out if they qualify for the federal aid.