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Some property owners may have to move flood-damaged homes in Douglas County

Some lakefront property owners in northern Wisconsin could be forced to move homes that were damaged by flooding last month. At least 121 seasonal and year-round homes around several lakes in Douglas County have been affected.

Vern Johnson and his wife have been living out of suitcases since last month's flooding damaged their home on Lyman Lake in northern Wisconsin.

"And several different motels because no matter what motel you get, they come up against the weekend and everybody's booked so you kind of got to jump to another one. That's what we're doing so far," Johnson said with a laugh.

Johnson's flood insurance won't cover the cost of moving around from place to place until they can get an apartment. He said he hopes repairs will only take a couple of months.

In Douglas County, some cabin and homeowners are reporting anywhere from a couple inches to several feet of water damage. Douglas County Zoning Administrator Steve Rannenberg said several lakes had water levels that rose beyond their regional flood elevation, including Lyman Lake, Lake Amnicon and Lake Minnesuing.

Some homes affected were located in the floodplain or the area most at risk of flooding.

"Those structures will very likely be determined to be substantially damaged and then those structures would either have to be removed from the property, or if the choice was to rebuild them, they would need to be rebuilt at the regional flood elevation," Rannenberg said.

Any property owner in a floodplain that experienced damage amounting to more than half the value of their home would fall into that category.

Rannenberg noted some cabins were built generations ago before floodplain regulations existed.

"This is really the first time that this kind of an event has happened in Douglas County. This was a significantly more serious event than we had in 2011 (and) 2012."

Douglas County officials are doubtful whether cabin and homeowners will qualify for federal assistance to make repairs. Property owners are likely to foot the bill unless they have flood insurance or enough homes have been destroyed to qualify for federal aid, according to Michelle Staff, floodplain policy coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

A spokesman with Wisconsin Emergency Management said Monday that 400-500 homes would have to be damaged to meet the threshold for federal assistance to individuals through the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.

State and local officials are still gathering information from people about the level of damage they've experienced. They've been encouraging people to call 211 to report any damage.

Floodwaters have done a lot of damage to Vern Johnson's home and belongings from files to furniture to family photos. Still, he tried to keep it all in perspective.

The Federal Highway Administration awarded Monday $1 million in emergency funding to Wisconsin for road repairs related to last month's flooding in northern Wisconsin.

The money is immediately available to reimburse Wisconsin for repairs to state and federal highways that were damaged, according to Nancy Singer, spokeswoman for the Federal Highway Administration.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation already finished repairs on two out of three projects. Work on all three projects is expected to cost around $3.3 million. A spokesman with Wisconsin Emergency Management said the state doesn't expect to release damage estimates on town and county roads for at least another week.

Editor's Note: Olivia Shalaby contributed to this report.

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