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Montreal River level drops; M-28 closed in Wakefield


Tie Shank/Daily Globe

Wakefield Water and electric foreman John Granato and his crew pump water out of the spillway at Sunday Lake Dam on Thursday to relieve some of the run-off water, hoping to stop it from surging back into the city of Wakefield. “We haven’t had to do this since 2002,” said Granato.

HURLEY — The Silver Street bridge was reopened to traffic Thursday afternoon as the water level on the Montreal River dropped substantially during the day.

With more than a foot of slushy snow falling on the Ironwood area, Iron County Emergency Management Director Stacy Ofstad said it was still a “wait and see game,” however.

Lt. Mike Rimkus of the Ironwood Public Safety Department said the water had gone down quite a bit in the east branch of the river at the Silver Street bridge.

A bridge inspector from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation arrived from Merrill to inspect the bridge’s structural integrity and also the Poplar Street bridge.

On Wednesday, the Poplar Street area flooded and water was within about six inches of the Silver Street bridge, where hundreds of sandbags were placed in anticipation of flooding.

Traffic detours to U.S. 2 were in effect, similar to when the river overflowed Silver Street in 2002.

The overnight temperatures in the low 30s slowed the snowmelt process, but resulted in a slushy mess that made driving hazardous, if not impossible at times. North winds whipped up the snow.

As of 3 p.m. Thursday, Ironwood had received 11 inches of snow, with more coming down.

Ironwood’s record snowfall for the entire month of May for the past 100 years was set in 1997 at 19.1 inches.

There was a 70 percent chance of continuing snow, fog and ice pellets continuing into today, with winds from 15 to 30 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Area residents were warned there could be a coat of ice on vehicles today.

A snow emergency was declared Thursday by the IPSD, city department of public works, Gogebic County Sheriff’s Department and Gogebic County Road Commission through 6 a.m. today.

That meant city overnight parking ordinances were again in effect.

As to the flooding, “They’re more concerned now with Wakefield,” Rimkus said, but he added the flood watch on the Montreal wasn’t over.

In Wakefield, large volume pumps were put in place to assist in dewatering, according to the Gogebic County Sheriff’s Department.

That caused closure of M-28 Thursday afternoon. Through traffic was diverted to M-64 and U.S. 45.

Residents of Wakefield had access via alternate city streets and were advised to stay away from areas where crews are working. U.S. 2 remained open.

The Michigan Department of Transportation said the closure of M-28 in Wakefield was likely to be in place for “a few days.”

According to Ofstad, all of the secondary roads in towns across Iron County that were closed because of flooding will remain closed.

“Towns are keeping the secondary roads closed because they can’t plow them anyway,” he said. “We ask that residents please stay off the roads unless travel is absolutely necessary, and don’t drive through open water because the state of the road underneath is unclear.”

Ofstad said that he was impressed with the residents of Iron County.

“I want to thank all of the volunteers, the fire department members from across the county and the Hurley and Mercer School districts for all of their hard work and volunteerism,” he said. “It’s because of all of their hard work that we are able to get through this.”

Schools canceled classes for the afternoon Thursday because of winter storm Achilles that also hit much of the Midwest. Classes today were uncertain.

The Hurley School District canceled at 12:15 p.m., and the Wakefield-Marenisco, Bessemer, Ironwood and Mercer School districts all canceled at 12:30 p.m. All after-school activities at the the schools were also canceled.

Gogebic Community College closed its campus at 1 p.m.


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