CC Strong Rebound: People pull together for prompt recovery

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette The 5th & Elm Coffee House in downtown Houghton was one of many businesses impacted by the flash flood that have quickly reopened, which is part of a pattern of a quick comebacks for businesses located throughout the Copper Country.

HOUGHTON COUNTY — Days after the water subsided from Sunday’s flash flood, the Copper Country is open for business.

The concern is if tourists know that.

A wave of cancellations rolled in in the wake of the flooding for hotels and tourism-related businesses, but things are beginning to bounce back.

“We may have been hit, but you can’t take us down,” said Dianne St. Amour, president of the Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau (KCVB).

Adding to that effort, organizations, businesses and the KCVB have pulled out all stops to get the word out.

If tourism numbers take a downturn, even local merchants and small businesses unaffected by flooding could be hurt.

“It’s going to slowly work its way out. It’s going to hurt your tourism. It’s going to hurt your industry. All of that will definitely be hit in one way or another,” St. Amour said.

While it is too early to predict what will happen, the KCVB is hoping for no or minimal decreases in tourism.

“We’re trying to work really hard with our marketing to make sure that everybody across the country knows that, yes, we were hit but we are Copper Country strong. We bounce back,” she said.

Some areas suffered substantial damage, while regions like Ontonagon, Baraga, Isle Royale National Park, Calumet and the Keweenaw Peninsula north of Quincy Hill remain relatively unaffected. Even businesses sustaining damage have been quick to find solutions or make repairs.

In Lake Linden, one of the hardest-hit areas, the Lindell Chocolate Shoppe was open the day after the water receded. That entire block in the downtown was unaffected, with not even a drop of water in the basement, and the main street, M-23, was passable by the end of the day, said owner Christy Batzeo.

Batzeo and her family were out Wednesday delivering 160 sandwiches to volunteers and workers nearby.

“Everybody was out there working so hard, and they were doing such a great job, and we just wanted to tell them thank you for helping with the community,” Batzeo said.

She hopes business will not be impacted but says only time will tell.

The downtown was also quickly open for business, with the exception of a patio that had turned into a sinkhole.

The quick recovery is a common theme among all but the worst-hit businesses, but many of them have temporary solutions in place or are well into the cleanup.

“People just have to understand, the whole county didn’t fall into the lake,” said Houghton City Manager Eric Waara. “I’ve been told if you watch CNN or Fox News or something like that, it’s like we’re all toast.”

Tourists have been calling the city, asking if they should come, and the answer is yes, Waara said.

He said it might be a little dirty now, but the area’s beauty remains and continues to offer lots of activities to do. Banners attached to every light post along Lakeshore Drive illustrate activities to do in the Houghton area, although there is still no swimming allowed in Portage Lake.

The speed of the response and the outpouring of support from longtime visitors has been swift and efficient, St. Amour said.

“You don’t see that anywhere else in the country. I think the country should stand up and take a look at what Copper Country strong did this week.”