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Columbia County asks residents to plan for potential flooding
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Columbia County asks residents to plan for potential flooding

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Columbia County is asking residents in flood-prone areas to heed warnings and make plans for possible evacuations as the Wisconsin River at Portage entered a minor flood stage Monday.

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the area until further notice and reported the river level at 17.6 feet. NWS expects the river to rise to a crest of 17.7 feet on Wednesday morning.

The minor flood stage for the Wisconsin River at Portage is 17 feet and the moderate flood stage is 18 feet.

A few homes in the town of Dekorra near the river have water in their first floors and there is also flooding of outbuildings and yards, according to the NWS flood statement.

“Depending on any future rains, these levels could change very quickly,” Columbia County Emergency Management Coordinator Kathleen Johnson said in a news release Saturday. “With the soils so saturated there is still no place for the water to go. Now is the time to make sure that you move items to higher ground inside and out.”

Residents in low-lying areas or along the river are encouraged to take “appropriate actions and to monitor the river levels for any changes” at the National Weather Service website (water.weather.gov), Johnson said.

According to the NWS flood statement Monday, the Blackhawk Park area in the town of Caledonia, Old River Road, is closed with water over it. West Lane Road in the Long Lake area is closed with about 4 feet of water over it in places and Wood Street in the Blackhawk Park area is also affected by floodwaters. Highway V and Oak Knoll Road in the town of Dekorra have water up to the edge of the pavement.

“Flooded roads, roads with compromised culverts and bridges are signed and barricaded as needed,” Johnson said. “Please heed the warning and do not drive around barricades.”

Johnson encouraged residents to check for road closures in the county at co.columbia.wi.us under “Public Interest.” It is updated as roads get closed and reopened. Residents who see any roadway that is covered with water but not closed or barricaded should report it to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office dispatch center, 608-742-4166, extension 1.

Also on Monday, the Fox River in Columbia County measured at 7.85 feet, which is below the action stage of 8.5 feet, while the Crawfish River at Columbus was measured at 12.55 feet, below the action stage of 15 feet.

A gauge of the Baraboo River at County Road X in eastern Sauk County showed the river level at 12.69 feet as of Monday morning and NWS projects it should stay below the “action stage” of 14 feet through April 5.

Sauk County Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Jelinek said the surrounding land in that area of the Baraboo River is all agricultural. “The farm fields could get some water, but other than that I don’t anticipate any property damage to homes.”

Jelinek said “there are no concerns right now” regarding the Baraboo River levels measured at gauges in Reedsburg, La Valle, Rock Springs, North Freedom and West Baraboo.

Considering the COVID-19 outbreak, Columbia County Sheriff Roger Brandner and Jelinek said it is important for people this spring to stay informed of their river levels because it might be more difficult for some people to find a place to evacuate to. Many hotels in the region, Brandner noted, are shut down due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“It’s always good to have a Plan B,” Brandner said. “Weather is very unpredictable and things can change quickly.”

Said Jelinek, “Please also understand that flash flooding can happen anywhere. If you know you could have some issues with that, be ready to go.”

Follow Noah Vernau on Twitter @NoahVernau or contact him at 608-695-4956.

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