Dam failure causes flooding, stranding homeowners in Lenroot, Wisconsin, U.S.

Dam failure causes flooding, stranding homeowners in Lenroot, Wisconsin, U.S.

A flash flood due to dam failure blocked roads and stranded residents of eight homes in the town of Lenroot in Sawyer County, Wisconsin, Wednesday to Thursday, May 27 to 28, 2020.

Roads turned into rivers following the dam failure which took place at 23:20 UTC (18:20 LT) along the Mosquito Brook Flowage, according to the county emergency management.

Residential areas downstream towards the Mosquito Brook Springs and Mosquito Brook Road were affected by waters more than 0.6 m (2 feet) deep, stranding homeowners on the road's dead-end.

Roads were damaged, according to Sawyer County Record. On the other hand, buildings did not appear affected, initially.

Both Mosquito Brook Road and Porky’s Road remain closed to traffic Thursday morning and barriers were also set up by the town of Lenroot.

The Sawyer County Sheriff's Office reported that the upstream Mosquito Brook Flowage was compromised, possibly leaving Porky's Road residents land-locked.

Prior to the burst, the Hayward area received almost 76 mm (3 inches) of rain.

Thomas Wolff, associate professor emeritus at Michigan State University who has been studying dams for more than 50 years, warned citizens about aging dams in the U.S., following the Edenville and Sanford dam failures in the past week.

"American Society of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) estimates more than 2 170 at-risk dams in the high hazard category," he said.

"High hazard refers to consequences that include the potential loss of life. So there are similar situations all around the U.S., and it is just a matter of when and where there is a very rare, but very large storm event that leads to overtopping and destructive erosion, or other types of failure."

Wolff noted that the public should be made aware of where such conditions occur, and in the absence of repair, mapping of which areas would flood in case of a breach.

Flooding will remain over mainly rural areas of northwestern Sawyer County.

Featured image credit: Beth Anne

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