The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Little Girls Point, Wakefield take brunt of storm in Gogebic County


July 13, 2016

Jason Juno/Daily Globe

A CAMPER belonging to Jean Braspenick, of Tula, at Sunday Lake campground blew over during a violent storm Monday evening, which brought strong straight-line winds to Wakefield.

The Gogebic County Emergency Management Agency and other local officials declared an emergency Tuesday morning because of the severe storm that began Monday evening.

Reports of damage began around 9 p.m. in Gogebic County. Heavy rain and strong winds caused flash flooding and knocked down trees in Bessemer Township, Ironwood Township and the city of Wakefield.

The Gogebic County Sheriff's Department said Wakefield, Little Girl's Point and Black River Harbor were heavily affected by the storm.

Gogebic County Emergency Management Coordinator James Loeper said there were no reported injuries or missing people in the county.

According to the National Weather Service, a confirmed tornado touched down in Bessemer Township around midnight Monday, near the intersection of South Barber Road and Spruce Road. Winds were estimated at 90 miles per hour.

The GCSD, Michigan State Police, area fire departments and Gogebic County Road Commission responded.

Little Girl's Point

Along Lake Road en route to Little Girl's Point, there are several spots where sections of the road washed away and parts are underwater.

Road commission manager Daren Pionk said the storm caused a 200-foot section of Lake Road at Little Girl's Point to wash away.

"The lake is right up to the roadway," he said, adding the embankments of Oman's Creek bridge are also washed away.

While responding to the storm at the Point, Sheriff Peter Matonich's vehicle washed into the water of Lake Superior over an embankment while he was still inside.

Matonich was able to crawl out the window, deputies said, and he was not injured.

Powers Road near Little Girl's Point is not passible by cars, Pionk said. "Aspen Lane is down to boulders."

Little Girl's Point County Park will be closed until further notice.

Loeper said emergency services personnel are checking on and assisting residents at Little Girl's Point. He asked residents who are stranded to stay where they are until rescuers arrive.

Unless travel is necessary, the GCSD told people to stay home. "Downed power lines and flash flooding is creating dangerous situations in these area," said a GCSD release.

Pionk advised to not "drive through water over roadways, as the road may be gone."


Strong straight line winds blew through Wakefield, blowing the roof off the former Chief's ice arena into Sunday Lake.

Jean Braspenick, of Tula, was camping near the former skating rink when his camper blew over while he was still inside.

"I was lying in bed with the window open and I went to close it. I heard sticks hit the top of the camper. All of a sudden I felt the camper start going, so I hit the deck. I rolled over and hit my head on the ceiling. I'm OK," he said.

To get out, Braspenick said he crawled through the back window.

Tom Hamel said he heard a "big boom" when two 200-some-year-old trees came down at his house in Wakefield. Both of the trees were situated along the curbside in front of his garage.

"I never thought a 200-some year-old-tree would uproot like the two did here at the same time. Nobody was hurt; that's the main thing," he said. " Within five seconds, it was over."

The first tree destroyed one of Hamel's cars, damaged the garage and landed against his house.

"It knocked off the foundation on the one side and busted up quite a few rafters on the inside," he said. Hamel said his garage likely needs to be replaced.

"A garage can be replaced, but you can't replace a family member or a pet or something like that," he said.

The second tree fell in Hamel's backyard, hitting a dog pen and taking out the power line. The power mast ripped off the house and the gas needs to be hooked up again.

Bruce Davey, of emergency services, said several residents in Wakefield lost power. He said he hoped power would be restored for most residents by Tuesday evening.

Because of substantial damage to some areas and soggy ground, he said power outages may continue. Emergency management will keep residents up to date.

Sunday Lake is closed to any use because of debris in the lake from the storm, he said. "This debris, until cleaned up, is considered a potential danger to people and property."

Due to the power outage, the Wakefield News-Bessemer Pick & Ax will not be published today.

Storm damage costs

Even with all the damages, Loeper said the county wasn't able to request a federal state of emergency. He said he is applying for Section 19 funds, which provide $100,000 for each community.

Pionk said he is still assessing the damages, but estimates the total cost to be around $2 million.

The Gogebic County Road Commission met Tuesday and agreed to postpone projects to help cover repair costs as a result of the storm.

Postponed projects include Anvil Road in Ramsay and East Shore Road in Marenisco. The county also agreed to "pull back" providing the townships emergency split money.

"We had a trifecta of a disaster, we had a tornado, straight winds and flash flood. This is going to be a struggle for our county. No doubt about it," Loeper said.

The state activated a State Emergency Operations Center Tuesday morning. Its personnel are monitoring the situation as the state has provided uniform, aviation, and marine services through the MSP.

U.S. Coast Guard helicopters are also assisting with search and rescue operations.


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