CRYSTAL LAKE (WKOW) – More than half a dozen families wait for water to recede enough to return to their homes on the shores of Crystal Lake in Columbia County.
“Haven’t had a good night sleep since we’ve been gone,” displaced homeowner Jeremy Wipperfurth says. He and his wife are temporarily staying in Madison.
The evacuees have left mobile homes in the Crystal Lake Campground RV Resort. Flood water surrounds many homes, some used only seasonally.
With water levels still high, Matt Katzman and a friend waded out to the home of Katzman’s parents Wednesday with a plastic floating barge to empty it. “Furniture, clothing, bedding,” Katzman says. “It’s right at the brink of getting into the place.”
Resort General Manager Alicia Bodenschatz says water is being pumped away from the surrounded homes, but the operation is tricky. She says water must be diverted carefully so as not to flood the resort’s beach and other areas.
Wipperfurth says he’s helped sandbag the property and says the community has rallied to try to mitigate the flooding. But Wipperfurth says there’s no timetable for a return to his home.
“It gets very frustrating,” he says. “They don’t know the extent of how much water is there.”
Adjacent to the resort is Joe Buchanan’s Mini Garages property, with storage units and boat slips. Buchanan says he’s used sandbags and skip loaders to hold back water or move earth to try to control the flooding. But Buchanan says four feet of water in some cases intruded the units.
“There’s cars in there, boats, motorcycles,” Buchanan says. “I mean everything, couches, everything.”
Buchanan says he’s run pumps 24-7 since the flooding from rain and rapid snow melt began Thursday. Between equipment and labor costs, and the likelihood some customers will cancel reservations for storage units, Buchanan says he’s bracing for a blow to his business.
“I’m figuring we’ll probably take a $100,000 hit,” he says.
Buchanan and other stakeholders say future planning for lake levels and management is increasing in importance. Long time lake observers say the current flooding is the worst since a flooding episode in the eighties.
But Buchanan says his business and the community is resilient. “We’ll bounce back.”