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‘We lost everything:’ Fond du Lac residents clean up homes, businesses after major flooding

FOND DU LAC -- Ice jams along the river in Fond du Lac caused major flooding in the area on Thursday, March 14. Hundreds of people were evacuated and roads were closed due to the mess. On Friday, March 15, clean-up efforts were underway.

Fortunately, the water significantly receded after contractors removed those chunks of ice on the river and piled them up at the fair grounds -- but the damage left behind to people's homes and businesses is significant.

Lou Ottmer

On Chester Ave., homeowner Lou Ottmer is helping clear the debris-covered storm drains. He's hoping his flooded street doesn't stay that way.

"We had enough water that you couldn't see the tip of the fire hydrant," said Ottmer.

Warm weather on Thursday caused chunks of ice to break apart along the river and jam up under the bridges, preventing the water from flowing downstream. Instead, it overflowed into town.

Flooding in Fond du Lac -- March 14, 2019

Mr. Detail, LLC

"Business on Johnson St. -- several of them -- have had to close because of the flooding," said Ottmer.

$200,000 worth of equipment inside auto shop Mr. Detail, LLC was ruined as a result of the flooding.

"We have cars that here that were customers', my own cars, equipment damage," said owner Travis Schram. "Pressure washers, tools, jacks, chemicals that are lost."

Schram watched from nearby -- helpless as 30 inches of water filled the garage.

Flooding in Fond du Lac -- March 14, 2019

"It's a business, and we lost everything," said Schram. "I can't image what people's homes are like."

Lou Ottmer

Back on Chester Ave., the unimaginable is reality for Ottmer. He has nine feet of water in his basement.

"Throw everything out -- call FEMA," said Ottmer. "I pay flood insurance, so they'll come and assess the situation. They did that last time."

That's right -- this isn't the first time for Ottmer. In 2008, his basement also flooded.

"I got a new furnace then, and I'm sure they'll give me another new furnace again," said Ottmer.

Flooding in Fond du Lac -- March 14, 2019

While it's devastating all over again, Ottmer has learned the best way to recover is to not dwell on what you can't control.

"You can't keep up with Mother Nature when it's like this," said Ottmer.

The fire chief says yesterday, 1,100 customers were without natural gas. He says Alliant Energy is still working to make sure it's safe to turn the gas back on. Meanwhile, city crews will continue to pump out standing water and clear storm drains.

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