Dead River flood 10th anniversary

Winter left the U.P. kicking and screaming, nearly two months into what’s supposed to be spring.

The prolonged farewell and intermittent surges in temperature have led to a sudden spike in water levels, including a frenzy of flash flooding.

But it’s nothing in comparison to the ultimate predecessor.

Ten years ago today, nearly eight billion gallons of water was unleashed on Marquette County from the Dead River.

At first, only a flash flood warning was issued.

But the situation worsened quickly, prompting city officials to declare a state of emergency just seven hours later.

“Gerry Corkin (the county commission chairman) and I went to the power plant at Tourist Park to see what we were dealing with as far as damage,” said Jerry Irby, Marquette’s mayor at the time of the flood. “We watched a tree come through the main part of the power plant, right through the window, and then we started to see trees come down afterwards and realized, ‘we’ve got a problem here’.”

Close to 2,000 residents living north of Wright Street had to be evacuated as floodwaters raged from one dam to the next.

A total of nine bridges, eight small businesses, three dams and two parks were severely damaged or, in some cases, completely destroyed, leading to $100 million in repairs.

No one was injured, thanks to the emergency response system’s prompt mobilization.

“It showed the tenacity, it showed the perseverance and it showed the cooperation of the community as it can work together in a disaster,” Irby said. “Nothing shows the true character of your community than a disaster.”

Just five years prior, the Upper Peninsula Power Company partnered with emergency management personnel from Marquette County to conduct an exercise scenario nearly identical to the actual flood.

Fortunately, that same practice is implemented and updated every year.