Rescues of flood victims in Viola, many roads swamped

VIOLA (WKOW) — Several flood victims have been rescued in hard-hit Viola, and slowing receding flood waters still leave many roads closed.

Jason Hughes of Viola was in his Chevy sedan Tuesday when it was swept off Highway 56 and rising water came up to his windows.

"It was pretty nerve-wracking," he says.

Hughes says a Viola Fire Department crew was able to maneuver to him.  "Thank God for the Viola Fire Department, got out and pulled me out of the window of my car," he says. "Minutes after that, the car got swept away down the river."

"They went out there, got the gentleman out,"  Fire Lieutenant Pete Halbleib says.  "It was a success."

Halbleib says when the Kickapoo River initially began to rise in the heart of the community, some residents were prepared to ride it out in their homes.  "It was tough to convince people to evacuate,"  Halbleib says.  He says some of the reluctant residents had to be rescued hours later in the dark by boats from the state Department of Natural Resources.

Authorities say access to Viola and other nearby communities in Richland and Vernon counties is severely limited by the many closures of roads and bridges covered with flood water.  An ambulance is standing by with a fire crew at hardest-hit Commercial Street in Viola to make sure no motorist chances a crossing through the several-feet-deep water.

Observers say the flood water level in Viola is at its highest in anyone’s memory.  Water marks on a building in the flood water are several feet above a placard denoting the previously highest flood mark set on June 9, 2008.

Halbleib says with residents safe, the focus of emergency responders is to help facilitate travel and clean up and repair.

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