Worth quoting at length in light of current events: the 1946 flood, nearly forgotten now, may not have been as catastrophic as the Great Bayfield Flood four years earlier, but did wreak further destruction on a community that was still rebuilding.
Bayfield County Press, June 27, 1946
Bayfield, Ashland Counties Survey Widespread Destruction by Flood
The City of Bayfield and the surrounding area, including almost the entire two counties of Bayfield and Ashland have been busy digging out of the havoc and chaos caused by the torrential rains of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and resultant floods of almost unimaginable proportions.
Here in Bayfield, a great ditch has been cut across the main street — as in 1942, but not so deep nor wide. The full width of the alley between the Wachsmuth building and the “corpse” of the Weber building, gutted in the 1942 flood, the cut widens to some forty feet across Rittenhouse avenue, with an average depth of perhaps eight feet. From the foot of the alley intersection with Manypenny Avenue, one block south of the city’s main thoroughfare, the flood spread out fanlike, to encompass almost the entire southeast corner of the community.
Actual damage, other than to the alley and street, is relatively slight until one reaches the railroad tracks. Here, the damage begins to mount. Unofficial estimates place the damage to railroad property at less than $5,000. Major damage to Haugen Oil company property or to the Booth Fisheries “cold house” was prevented only by the vigilance and determined efforts of scores of citizens erecting sandbag barricades and dikes. Tons upon tons of sand were carried on down to the lower flats. The waters overran the Bayfield Canning company’s property, filling the sheds with sand. The Northern Wisconsin Power company, hard-hit by the total loss of their Orienta plant, suffered likewise through the practically complete inundation of their new office building. Only through constant labor and toil were the waters kept from well-nigh ruining the place.
Fred LaPointe’s cement block factory was inundated, and hundreds of tons of sand were spread all over the place. Muhlke’s boat building shop, almost directly in the path of the flood, was kept from major damage by the efforts of the crew that worked to save the Haugen Oil Company property.
That was a blessing for Frank Muhlke, grandfather of my friend Bobby Nelson- his shop was totally destroyed by the 1942 flood. In the aftermath, Leo Capser, of Madeline Island Museum fame, very generously helped Muhlke get back on his feet.
Highway 13, leading out of the city to the north, in the portion between Top o’ Wisconsin Terrace and the Dal Burger home (formerly the E. R. Mitchell residence), is pretty well gone on the east, in spots having fallen away almost to the center of the highway. On Rittenhouse Avenue in the block between Third and Fourth streets, a great gap has been formed by the falling away of filling over the culvert in the big ravine. Damage in other parts of the city is what might be normally expected following a violent rainfall. Rainfall for the entire period of the storm, according to records at the Winbigler station, totaled 5.61 inches. Other figures reported in the flood area were as high as 8 or 9 inches.
In the western part of Bayfield county, bridges were swept from abutments, culverts taken out, resulting in damage to highways estimated to approach $200,000.
While damage in the July, 1942, flood was heaviest at Bayfield, the brunt of the storm was carried by Mellen and Odanah, the former city being dealt a staggering blow when the dam in the river flowing through the heart of the community gave way under the weight of the swollen waters, loosing a solid wall of water that left naught but ruin in its wake. Odanah, ten miles to the east of Ashland, was completely inundated by the raging torrents of the Bad and White rivers. There the inhabitants were forced to flee for their lives, and even today, the flood is still a menace. The Catholic school, a structure costing well toward $100,000, is badly damaged, perhaps nearing almost a total loss. Only further survey can determine whether the sagging walls can be restored.