CEDAR RIVER - J.W. Wells State Park is almost cleaned up, after a straight-line wind took down hundreds of trees there June 19.
"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration crew was in with Menominee County doing an assessment, and they found that it was a 90-mph, straight-line wind," said Jeff Kakuk, park supervisor.
The wind tore through the park at 8:30 a.m. and caused damage to trees throughout the park. "It was pretty much from one end to the other," said Kakuk.
Storm damage is shown at J.W. Wells State Park in Cedar River. A June 19 storm packing winds of up to 100 mph swept through the park and downed about 400 trees. Clean-up efforts have been ongoing over the past week. No injuries were reported. (Photo courtesy of Michael Hall — Black Iris Studio)
The park staff was inside the main office when the wind struck. "We had no idea, being in this building, that it was that strong," said Kakuk. "We had someone in that booth up by the road, and they just said there's a couple trees down, and we looked up the road both ways, and it was all you saw."
The downed trees blocked off the main entry road to the park, forcing campers to stay at their sites. "I would say that we had about 200 yards of solid trees," said Kakuk. "Right away we sent out a crew to make sure everyone was OK, and we had another crew trying to get the road open in case somebody wasn't."
All of the buildings and playground equipment at the park were untouched by the storm. "We're really fortunate that with all the infrastructure here everything was missed," said Kakuk. "There were no public injuries, and no staff injuries, and there as no damage to really anything."
Workers have been cleaning up downed trees since the storm hit. "Basically it's just tree removal," said Kakuk. "At the campground, pretty much all those trees have been removed."
The park will be open and ready for campers for the Fourth of July weekend. "We've been doing a pretty good job of getting it cleaned up, but everyone is coming in Thursday and Friday, and then it's pretty much booked for the two weekends," said Kakuk.
"With Fourth of July being on a Wednesday, it's always the weekend before and the weekend after," he added.
The park's Fourth of July events for families, which are scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, will also continue as planned. On Friday, families will be able to fish at the Cedar River Harbor at 5 p.m. and roast marshmallows and other treats at a campfire at 7 p.m.
Saturday there will be a bike parade at 10 a.m., a sandcastle contest from noon to 1 p.m., and games and a dunk tank at 2 p.m. There will also be a watermelon eating contest at 3:30 p.m. and a chili cook-off at 4 p.m.
While the park is accessible to the public, visitors should not expect the park to look the same as it did prior to the storm. "There are a lot of things that look pretty different, especially by the entrance of the park," said Kakuk.
Trees that were taken down by the winds were typically older trees. "It was, for the most part, our old growth hemlocks and cedars that sustained the most of the damage," said Kakuk. "I think it was just the type of trees. It really seemed to be the trees with the higher canopies that came down."
Unfortunately for hikers, the 7 miles of foot trails at J.W. Wells may still be unsafe or unnavigable during the holiday. "The trail system will probably be closed for awhile yet," said Kakuk.