Wheatland businesses still struggling with flood damage

Posted at 6:59 PM, Jul 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-18 19:59:46-04

After five days of flooding, Highway 50 reopened all of its west and eastbound lanes in the town of Wheatland, however, that doesn’t mean businesses along the busy roadway are out of the water.

The property surrounding Leah’s Family Hair Care looks like an unintended moat.

“We left here in a boat on Thursday,” said owner Leah Rasmussen. “I thought I was going to be working on Thursday or Friday.”

Flood waters along the Fox River climbed to a historic 6.5 feet above flood stage lake last week. Instead of scheduled haircuts, Rasmussen and her husband found themselves a part of a disaster.

“You don’t know what’s important to you until it happens and you have to move stuff. What do you take? What do you do?” Rasmussen said. 

The Rasmussens not only have a hair styling business surrounded by water, the building is also their home. As water continued to recede Tuesday, the cleanup process began.

“We’re taking insulation out of the crawl space,” she said. 

The reopening of Highway 50 allows crews to access Leah’s. She said the recovery process could take a couple weeks.

Less than half a mile east, TODAY’S TMJ4 found more of the same at Luisa’s Italian restaurant.

“We had over $25,000 worth of food, whether it’s frozen, perishables in the walk in cooler — everything is just completely ruined,” said bar and catering manager Guy Santelli.

Santelli said they have about a month of cleaning and restoration before Luisa’s reopens.

“We’re mostly concerned about our employees,” he said. “We want to get them back to work so they can get back to paying their mortgages.”

The reopening of Highway 50 helps them stay busy.

“(Drivers) would turn around on 317th and right in the driveway and ask us directions to where they had to go,” Santelli said. “For the last 5 or 6 days, we’ve been traffic patrol.”

Both businesses along Highway 50 in Wheatland are in a floodplain and have flood insurance. Several residents who live nearby say they couldn’t afford it. Kolby Fink said he’s left hoping for federal disaster relief.

“I’m waiting for my president I voted for to finally tell me this is a federal disaster and finish off what they started in ’08 and buy the rest of these houses and hopefully I can get something and move out because I lost everything,” he said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s assistant said there is no update on possible FEMA funding at the federal level. Ryan’s spokesman said they are waiting for the state to provide a total loss assessment.