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Home / Government / Milwaukee declared a disaster area, more storms expected (UPDATE)

Milwaukee declared a disaster area, more storms expected (UPDATE)

A sinkhole under 1900 N. 19th Place in Milwaukee threatens to swallow a home on Friday afternoon. The owner passed away and the home was not occupied at the time the sinkhole opened. (Photo by Kat Berger)

A sinkhole at 1900 N. 19th Place in Milwaukee threatens to swallow a home on Friday afternoon. The owner passed away recently and the home was not occupied at the time the sinkhole opened. (Photo by Kat Berger)

Gov. Jim Doyle has declared a state of emergency in Milwaukee County on Friday after Thursday’s storms caused extensive damage throughout the metropolitan area.

The governor’s declaration directs state agencies to assist local governments in recovery efforts. The Wisconsin Emergency Management will work with local officials to assess damage.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker earlier asked Doyle to petition President Barack Obama for federal aid.


Milwaukee resident Mark Pawlik was walking down North Avenue during the height of Thursday evening’s storm. Pawlik, who owns a towing and recycling business, was on his way to help a friend while trying to stay dry during the pounding rainstorm.

A sink hole on Milwaukee's Northeast Side swallowed a Cadillac Escalade during the height of the storms Thursday evening at the corner of North and Oakland avenues. (Photo courtesy of Mark Pawlik)

A sinkhole on Milwaukee's Northeast Side swallowed a Cadillac Escalade during the height of the storms Thursday evening at the corner of North and Oakland avenues. (Photo courtesy of Mark Pawlik)

What happened next has some of his friends and family calling him a hero.

“I thought the streetlight got hit by something,” Pawlik said. “It was lying on the ground and then all the sudden it stood up.”

At that moment, Pawlik said he saw the streetlight, and a Cadillac Escalade stopped at the corner of North and Oakland avenues, disappear.

“As I got closer to (the car) I saw the SUV totally disappear,” Pawlik said. “I saw it drop 20 feet and it was gone.”

Pawlik then rushed to the edge of the 20-by-40-foot sinkhole and pulled the lone driver of the Escalade to safety.

“I didn’t know who was in the car,” Pawlik said. “There were wires hanging and water was pouring in from a sewer.

“(The driver) was in total shock,” he added. “I grabbed him and he said, ‘Get me out of here.’ I said, ‘You’re OK.’

“It was pretty bizarre.”


The driver was taken to a local hospital. His name and condition haven’t been released.

According to Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works, Rawson Contractors Inc., Sussex, has been contracted to remove the SUV with the help of a crane.

30 a.m. Friday. (Photo by Kat Berger)

City of Milwaukee workers on Friday survey a sinkhole that formed at the intersection of North and Oakland avenues. The sound of the SUV's idling engine inside the hole could still be heard as of 9:30 a.m. Friday. (Photo by Kat Berger)

Construction crews and engineers with the city of Milwaukee were still on the scene around on Friday evening.

–Joe Yovino


Another sinkhole has formed between two homes on Milwaukee’s North Side.

The hole formed between homes in the 1900 block of north 19th Place and has engulfed the front of one home.


MILWAUKEE (AP) — Weary travelers who were stranded overnight at a Milwaukee airport began flying out Friday afternoon, one day after powerful storms pounded southeastern Wisconsin and caused widespread flooding that grounded all flights.

Both commercial runways at Mitchell International Airport were covered with water Friday morning. Crews reopened one runway about 1 p.m. and the second a few hours later, airport spokesman Ryan McAdams said.

The worst may not be over. Southern Wisconsin was expected to face another night of flooding and winds late Friday, with the National Weather Service forecasting as much as 5 inches of rain in some areas. Storms were expected to start clearing up Saturday night.

Marlene Wygle, 60, of Green Bay, said she had been eagerly looking forward to her first-ever flight, a trip to San Francisco to watch her son run a marathon Sunday. Her Delta flight was delayed three times, leaving her disappointed but understanding.

“I saw the rain but didn’t think it was going to shut down the airport,” she said. “But that’s OK. I would rather they be cautious than not safe.”

Almost 8 inches of rain poured down in just two hours Thursday evening, snarling traffic in and around Milwaukee and causing widespread power outages.

Milwaukee police handled 500 weather-related calls throughout the night, Chief Ed Flynn said, including one where officers evacuated about 100 people from a flooded hotel.

In a separate incident, two people were struck by lightning and hospitalized. Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center spokeswoman Myrle Croasdale told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Stephanie Boyce, 30, was listed in good condition Friday night, but her sister, Mary Boyce, 25, was critical.

Their brother, Martin Boyce, told the newspaper, “Stephanie said the only thing she could remember was lying on the ground and hearing someone calling 911.”

Air traveler Rachel Weeks, 23, was relaxed as she waited for her delayed Delta flight in Milwaukee. The U.S. Navy airman from Neshkoro is returning to Norfolk, Va., after a week of leave, and said she always schedules extra time when she travels because the military doesn’t accept many excuses for returning late.

“I’m not too bothered,” she said of the delay, adding, “It’s weird, though. I flew into Milwaukee last year in an ice storm with no problem, and now it’s like, really, rain’s going to shut (the airport) down?”

Several creeks and rivers overflowing their banks and flooding suburban neighborhoods. In addition, about 1,100 of 32,000 We Energies customers who lost power in Thursday’s storms remained without service Friday evening. The company expected to restore power to all those customers by midmorning Saturday, assuming overnight storms didn’t cause additional damage, utility spokesman Barry McNulty said.

There may have been at least half a dozen tornadoes during the storm. The National Weather Service reported tornado touchdowns near Whitewater, and more between Palmyra and Muskego, but there were no immediate reports of property damage or injuries.

The twisters were one reason Cheryl Ortiz, 49, of Waukegan, Ill., wasn’t too upset that her Friday morning flight from Milwaukee to Fort Worth, Texas was canceled, even though her only other option now is to leave Saturday night.

“They’re looking out for people’s best interests,” she shrugged. “I don’t want to be up in the air with a tornado going on.”

— DINESH RAMDE, Associated Press Writer


Some suburban neighborhoods are flooded in Milwaukee County, according to sheriff’s Capt. Aisha Barkow. She said the Root River in Franklin and Oak Creek in South Milwaukee were above their banks.

In Shorewood, which recorded 11.5 inches of rain, streets and cars were still under water on Friday afternoon.


Officials from Whitefish Bay have reported the Village Hall sustained major damage from Thursday’s storms.

The basement of the Village Hall, 5300 N. Marlborough Drive, flooded during the height of the storm, knocking out power.

The basement is the dispatch area for the Whitefish Bay Police Department, the Shorewood Police Department, the Glendale Police Department and the North Shore Fire Department.

In Glendale, Nicolet High School was 80 percent under water, according to reports.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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