Residents in Wisconsin community return home after dam breach leads to evacuations

MANAWA, Wis. (AP) — People living downriver of a Wisconsin dam that was breached by floodwaters have been allowed back into their homes following an evacuation order and many of them now face the mess of cleaning up flooded basements, police said Saturday.

The dam in Manawa along the Little Wolf River was breached Friday afternoon by rain-driven floodwaters that eroded an estimated 50-foot-wide (15.2-meter-wide) portion of the dam, said Manawa Police Chief Jason Severson.

The dam breach happened after the National Weather Service said a deluge of about 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) of rain fell on that area of eastern Wisconsin in a few hours Friday.

Homes south of Manawa’s dam were ordered evacuated Friday, but that order was lifted at 5 p.m. in the city about 55 miles (88 kilometers) west of Green Bay after the flooding subsided and a highway along which most of the affected homes are located reopened, Severson said Saturday.

Dozens of homes in the community of about 1,200 residents were temporarily evacuated, but it was not immediately clear how many residences were affected by that order, he said. There were no reports of injuries following Friday’s dam breach, Severson said.

While officials will need to repair two local roads damaged by the floodwaters, the main cleanup work in Manawa will involve residents whose basements got flooded, he said.

“There’s a lot of homes that did take on water in their basements. The water was so high it was just running through the streets and some people took on property damage,” Severson told The Associated Press.

He said a high school and a Masonic lodge that had served as emergency shelters were shut down Friday night after people returned to their homes. But Manawa’s wastewater treatment plant, which was swamped by the flooding, remained offline Saturday and a boil-water order was in effect for the city.

Christine Boissonnault spent most of Friday in the local high school’s shelter after she was evacuated from her mobile home. She said it was shocking to see the flood damage in Manawa.

“I cried when I came down and saw it. My daughter works at the store and she said she saw and heard the water going down the road,” Boissonnault told WFRV-TV.

Severson said a staffer with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation inspected the area Friday and found that the dam appears to be intact aside from erosion on one side of it.

The weather service warns that rain and possibly thunderstorms are possible through the weekend and into early next week.