Group from UW-Madison witness flooding up north first hand

Published: Jul. 12, 2016 at 10:23 PM CDT
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ASHLAND CO., Wis. (WMTV) -- Governor Walker has declared a state of emergency in 8 northern Wisconsin counties following severe flooding that has impacted their region.

In Iron County, one man died due to the strong storms.

A group from UW-Madison's Department of Life Sciences Communication is in Ashland County working on a month long outreach program. They weren't expecting their travels to take such a dramatic turn.

One aspect of their program is teaching Native American teens how to shoot videos and tell stories.

NBC15 spoke to one professor who witnesses the devastation first hand.

"It's really chaotic up here. The casino and lodge is really landlocked. The highway is out on either side."

Professor Patty Loew had planned on doing stories about gardening with teenagers from the Bad River tribe.

"Then of course all hell broke loose last night and we pivoted. Now they've gotten baptism by fire and they're shooting flood video."

Loew described some of what they've seen.

"The bridge is out. There's tons of concrete. The river is up to the guardrails. There's a car wedged inside of the guardrail that appears to be the only thing really hold up the bridge."

Loew says it has been more than 20 years since they've seen such devastation.

"This is really unusual. I'm told that the last time the highway was closed was in 1992. That was the last time they had flooding like this."

The community has virtually been brought to a standstill.

"The tribe is literally shut down. The casino's closed, of course it's losing money. The lodge is losing money."

Despite the challenges, many are remaining calm.

"It's a horrible situation," explains Loew, "but people are making the best of it and the tribe has been really generous."

A lesson in humanity and breaking news, her students won't soon forget.

"If they wanted to learn storytelling, they have a really, really good story to tell."

Copyright 2016: WMTV