A series of severe thunderstorms accompanied by torrential rains wreaked havoc on the Gogebic Range and adjacent parts of northwest Wisconsin in late June 1946. The onslaught of storms began late June 23, accompanied by strong winds, hail and severe flooding. By early June 25, numerous roads and bridges in the area were washed out, homes flooded and communities isolated.
Bessemer suffered extensive damage during the first wave of thunderstorms. A portion of the grandstand at the high school athletic field was torn off by high winds, hurled high above the tree tops and deposited on a home close by. Portions of the homeâ??s roof caved in, leaving a mass of lumber partially covering the residence; parts of the roof were also strewn about the yard. Huge trees were split and snapped off near the roots. Lightning damaged chimneys and started fires.
The worst damage and disruption came from flooding. Six inches of rain poured down in Ironwood over 48 hours, much of it occurred during the early morning hours of June 24, when a calendar-day record 3.81 inches was measured. Wakefield residents could not recall a harder rain in such a short period of time. Nearly 3.5 inches of rain fell in less than an hour and a half.
The torrential rains pushed rivers and streams in the area over bank full. In Ironwood, the west end of Cedar Street in the â??flatsâ?? district was inundated by the Montreal River. A woman had to be rescued from her home at the edge of the river and several other houses on the street could only be reached by boat. The Black River became obstructed with numerous large trees and logs felled by the storm. Its swift current carried three boats moored at the harbor out into Lake Superior. Sport and commercial fishermen suspended operations until the water subsided for fear the strong current would prevent them from returning to harbor.
Bridges and culverts were washed out all over the Gogebic Range into adjacent areas of Wisconsin and the U.P. Mellen, Wisconsin received 11.72 inches during the eventâ??a record for the state. In the U.P., a bridge on M-28 at Kenton washed out, forcing traffic to take the long detour to U.S.-2. The North Bessemer farming community was isolated when the last round of heavy rain pushed the waters of the Black River and Powder Mill Creek over the bridges on roads leading into the settlement.
In the town of Bessemer, raging flood waters carried away a garage on the north side. A man went to the aid of a neighbor during flash flooding when water from a nearby creek overflowed the banks and had begun entering the neighborâ??s house. The man was swept off his feet by the current and had to swim across the lot.
The flooding rains of June 23-25, 1946 were confined to a relatively small area of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. Farther east, Marquette actually registered below-average rainfall during June 1946.
Rainfall this month is running above averageâ??at least at the National Weather Service (NWS) site near Negaunee. Through today, 3.50 inches has been measured. The average up to this point is about two-and-a-quarter inches. Some showers will occur in our warm and humid air mass into tonight. Then, a cold front will pass from north to south through Upper Michigan. Some showers and cooler weather is expected on Tuesday. At this point, it appears that it will dry out with below average temperatures at mid-week.