'Never seen waves so big:' Racine leaders brainstorm solutions for $6.4M in shoreline damage

RACINE -- Racine officials said the Jan. 10-12 winter storm caused an estimated $6.4 million in damage to the shoreline, and FOX6 caught up with Racine's mayor and DPW commissioner Saturday, Feb. 1 -- brainstorming possible solutions.

"I've never seen waves so big on the shores of Lake Michigan," said Cory Mason, Racine mayor.

Those waves met boulders, concrete chunks, and debris along the shoreline.

"We had 20-foot waves coming in, and they really took away a good chunk of the shoreline that was here, at least 15 feet," said Mason.


Mother Nature reshaped the shoreline, ushering what was a normally peaceful landscape into the lake as a result of high water levels, wind gusts near 50 miles per hour, and the lack of a natural breakwater.

"The shoreline before that storm looked just like it would in July," said John Rooney, Racine Public Works commissioner. "There was no ice buildup, so when it came in, it really did a lot of damage."

With a mound of dirt and debris covering Pershing Park, it took DPW employees a week just to clear the road -- with questions remaining about the long-term work, not only to restore the shoreline but to make it strong enough to withstand these storms moving forward.

"The size of the material and the task behind that is more than we can accomplish here and do our normal daily activities," said Rooney.

"It's part of who we are," said Mason. "We want to protect it. We enjoy it. We love it, but sometimes, it gets angry, and it sure did a couple weeks ago."

City, county, and state leaders met with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials Tuesday, Jan. 28 to discuss restoration plans and the state's funding request.