2019 July Storm

Learn More about the July 2019 storm

Widespread storms July 19-20, 2019, resulted in an estimated 286,000 acres of forest damage across Wisconsin. Roads, trails, and outdoor recreation facilities were blocked with tens of thousands of fallen trees. The magnitude of the storm impacted private landowners, county forest, national forest, scattered state lands, tribal and municipal properties.

Even though it’s been a year, safety concerns remain following the blowdown and the USDA Forest Service and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are asking for your continued patience and support during the recovery efforts. Fuels reduction treatments and salvage timber sales will continue on public and private lands into the second year of recovery work.  Readiness for fire suppression will be ongoing given the large amounts of logging slash and damaged trees not suitable for commercial timber products.  In addition, monitoring for forest health concerns and regeneration needs will continue into the future.

The Forest Service will continue to focus on the following priority items:

  • Reducing fuel loading in fire prone forest types, especially adjacent to private properties.
  • Reduce fuel loading along transportation routes to facilitate safer escape routes and more efficient fire suppression response.
  • Fast pace timber salvage operations to capture the marketability of the damaged trees before they become a fuel loading problem.

Current conditions  

July 15, 2020, heavy rain near Laona caused damage to several roads and damaged Waupee Dam (news release). The area around Waupee Dam, including the boat landing and dispersed camping site, remains closed to visitors for their safety. The access road has been blocked off with barricades to ensure the safety of workers and the public. The public is urged to use caution if traveling in the impacted area as conditions can change quickly.

Immediately following the storm, a closure order was issued for roads, trails and recreation sites damaged by the storm. The order is continuously updated as areas are cleared and made safe again for Forest visitors. 

The most recent version of the closure order can be found here. We anticipate another update soon. 

The general forest area of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is open to visitors; however, visitors are reminded that many hazards exist from the storm event that may pose a safety risk. This includes heavy truck traffic in areas of timber salvage operations. Please be safe while driving roads in the area. Visitors should refer to the closure order for recreation areas, trails and roads that were damaged by the storm event and be mindful in order to ensure safety. 

Recreation areas that still have restrictions in the blowdown area are as follows:

Dispersed Recreation Areas that are closed:  

  • Fanny Lake 
  • Wayne King 
  • Jesse Lake 
  • Perch Lake 
  • Spruce Lake 
  • Trickle Creek 
  • Wischer Lake 

Developed Recreation Areas that are closed:  

  • Jones Spring Area Trail 
  • Popple Ridge Trailhead and Horse Camp 

Coordinated work at the state, federal and local levels that has happened in the year since the storm event

In the year since the storm event took place, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other partners have worked together in response efforts, in particular to the damage that occurred in Langlade and Oconto counties. Those coordinated efforts include:

  • Good Neighbor Authority timber sales – revising cutting prescriptions to account for salvage, adjusting cutting unit boundaries, harvest timing and access management.
  • Utilizing existing Reciprocal Forest Fire Protection Agreement between the two agencies, fire protection and prevention measures include:
    • Coordination of fire suppression resources, including additional aircraft pre-positioned in the blowdown area.
    • Conducting simulated fire training exercises within the blowdown.
    • Sharing of maps within the blowdown so fire suppression resources have up to date information of access into areas.
    • Working with county and local townships to share information with local residents.
  • Sharing of data – including aerial imagery, satellite imagery, etc.
  • Working together to acquire and interpret additional imagery of damaged areas.
  • Sharing of information regarding timber markets.

Highlights of the recovery efforts within the national forest boundaries include:

  • The Chequamegon-Nicolet awarded 48 salvage timber sales to harvest approximately 9,100 acres totaling 109 million board feet (MMBF).
  • Reviewed and modified 11 existing timber sales across 3,400 acres that were sold prior to the storm and were subsequently damaged.  Of the 12,500 total acres included for harvest to date, 3,400 acres have had harvesting completed resulting in reduced fuel loads and allowing the next phases of restoration, including reforestation, to be planned.
  • Forest Service crews, timber sale contracts and road-clearing contracts made it possible to open about 900 miles of roads that were previously impassable due to fallen trees.
  • More than 400 miles of motorized trails were reopened with the help of volunteers, contractors and Forest Service crews. The Forest coordinated with counties and snowmobile clubs to clear the remaining snowmobile trails.
  • Approximately 40 miles of non-motorized trails have been opened, including some cross-country ski and mountain bike trails. These trails were prioritized last fall in anticipation of the winter recreation season.
  • Most developed recreation sites in the Lakewood area were closed directly after the storm. Forest Service crews were able to reopen most of those sites before the 2019 Labor Day weekend. Boot Lake Campground reopened on July 2, 2020.
  • Currently, of the 221 acres under contract to construct 200-foot-wide buffers along the Wildland Urban Interface, 99 acres have been completed around Jessie and Sawyer Lakes. Fuel reduction treatments include removal of damaged and downed trees, mastication, hand piling or a combination of treatments.
  • There are plans to treat an additional 165 high-priority acres this calendar year with plans to treat up to 383 more acres in future years.
  • Towns cleared hundreds of miles of roads and are currently using Forest Service funds in Cooperative Road Maintenance Agreements to address ongoing maintenance needs.