Copper Country needs help to recover from flood damage

The residents of the Upper Peninsula tend to be hardy folk, ready to withstand whatever the elements can dish out.

Severe winters, when the snow piles up and temperatures plunge. Dry summers that might make for a bad fire season. Even the occasional tornado or straight-line windstorm that flatten whole forests and drop trees on roads, homes and power lines.

The response usually is to hunker down, then dig out, wield the chain saw or do whatever else is needed to go on.

But the region doesn’t expect the type of deluge that descended this past weekend.

The torrential rains that fell in parts of the U.P. — up to 7 inches in some areas in a matter of hours — were unprecedented, a 1,000-year event, experts say.

It hammered parts of the Copper Country, leaving parts undercut by torrential rains that made a number of roadways with fissures cut so deep it looked like the aftermath of an earthquake. Houghton and other communities in the Keweenaw had roads turned into rivers.

It’s the kind of damage that will take weeks, if not months or years, to return back to normal, if it can be restored at all.

And the news that a 12-year-old boy, buried Sunday morning when his home’s basement caved in due to water damage, had died Monday gave the region its first casualty of the disaster.

An online charity set up by the boy’s family had drawn nearly $77,000 by this morning. It can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/thatcher-markham-fundraiser.

During this long recovery period, the areas affected by the flash floods will need the same community and U.P. support.

Monday afternoon, Gov. Rick Snyder declared Menominee and Houghton counties disaster areas, allowing the use of National Guard troops to assist with road repairs and other duties in the affected areas. It also opens up other state emergency resources.

But the cost to repair it all could reach a billion dollars, perhaps more, authorities said.

So how can the rest of the U.P. help?

The Red Cross already has headed in with emergency provisions and to assist local officials with setting up shelter.

Monetary donations can be made to the 2018 Houghton County Flood Relief Fund, either online at http://www.phfgive.org/contribute.php or mailed to Portage Health Foundation, 400 Quincy St., Hancock, MI 49930. Donors are asked to follow the online instructions and put Flood Relief in the comments section so the contribution can be properly recorded and allocated. If sending a check, put “Flood Relief” in the memo line.

The Keweenaw Community Foundation also has established a Disaster Relief Fund. Disbursement will be overseen by the Keweenaw Community Foundation Board, with input from the Houghton County Emergency Response team.

Contributions can be made online, or mailed to: Keweenaw Community Foundation, 236 Quincy Street, Hancock, MI 49930. If sending a check, put “Disaster Relief” in the memo.

Other ways to contribute include providing clean-up supplies and equipment, such as rakes, shovels, buckets, gloves and wheelbarrows.

Volunteers are needed as well to help Houghton County residents clear mud and other debris from their properties.

For more information on how to help, call 211.

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