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Frank A. Douglass Insurance Agency

Father’s Day Flood’s legacy found in subtle places

Houghton City Manager Eric Waara and Kevin Harju of the Houghton County Road Commission tell a very similar story about the days and months immediately after the Father’s Day Flood. It is filled with small victories and creating daily “battle plans.” Waara says the city’s Public Works Department had already gotten major thoroughfares like Agate Street at least passable before federal officials joined the relief efforts. Harju says his crews prioritized places that were isolated, some obvious such as dead end roads. Others like Dollar Bay became islands by circumstance as washouts of M-26 happened on either side.

The consequences now are more subtle. Both Waara and Harju say since the flood different infrastructure components have given out well before their useful life was expected to be complete. In many cases, damage that was not apparent in June of 2018 has slowly come to light. Waara says that’s a function of the violent nature of the flooding.

That was a monumental change. In some cases, it changed the topography, it changed the grade of hills, it changed where water ran, where it didn’t run. You had areas of town that dried up, that had been traditionally wet areas. Then there’s areas that were dry for generations, well, there’s water in the backyard all summer now.

The area suffered one death due to the flooding. Twelve-year-old Thatcher Markham was pinned by debris after the basement walls gave way in the face of debris cascading downhill towards the Portage Canal. A memorial 5K continues to be run in his honor raising money for local charities, such as Pigs n’ Heat.

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