RACINE — “This is something I’ve never seen before, and I’ve been in this community my entire life,” Racine Public Works Commissioner John Rooney said about the weekend storm damage to Racine’s lakefront.
Rooney attributes the extent of the damage to not only high wind and water but to the mild winter Racine has experienced so far. Without ice built up along the coast, there was nothing to buffer the shoreline from the waves.
The sustained winds from the east also pushed the water in Lake Michigan in Racine’s direction, causing a storm surge-type situation which raised the water levels even higher.
“This created a perfect storm,” said Rooney.
Assessing the damage
Following the storm, Rooney visited Pershing Park and Pershing Park Drive, the end of Barker Street near the Racine Water Department and the Racine Yacht Club, the English Street outfall at North Beach, the intersection of Augusta Street and the Lake Michigan Pathway.
Rooney said he had, “varying levels of concern at all locations.”
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A discharge pipe where stormwater drains from Gateway Technical College, a 20-foot section of steel pipe, was separated from the pipe it was connected to and, “thrown up on shore like an empty soda can,” Rooney said.
Pershing Park Drive has been closed since Saturday as crews clean the debris scattered by the high waves and it was unclear as of Wednesday when it would be complete. Rooney did not foresee restoring the pathway along the lake since there was too much debris.
Racine Zoo Director Beth Heidorn said the zoo stage at the edge of the property is secure and that the waves did not make it that far on land.
The city is still assessing the damage and developing a plan for repairs. Rooney said he may need to bring in consultants to get estimates for the repairs. At this point, Rooney could only said, “It’s going to cost some funds.”
One project on the list is the shoreline fortifications along Pershing Park Drive, which Rooney said is outdated.
“It appears like it’s protected, but the materials placed there aren’t really the proper materials,” he said.
Tony Beyer, Mount Pleasant’s Director of Public Works said the 700-foot revetment wall the village installed a few years ago, “held up very well against the storms.” Beyer said he had not heard any reports of significant damage from private property owners in the village.
Shannon Powell, the city’s communications director, said that unfortunately at this point, there are not a lot of options for home owners other than contacting their homeowners insurance.
Cara Pratt, the city’s sustainability and conservation coordinator, and Julie Kinzelman, a researcher with the city Public Health Department, are in the midst of a year-long, grant-funded study of Racine County’s beaches and shoreline.
Powell said Pratt and Kinzelman are planning to talk with representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers this week and will, “continue to advocate for residents and look for potential relief.”