Some residents of Columbia and Sauk counties who live in the path of the rising Wisconsin River heededthe advice of local officials and evacuated from flood-prone areas.
Columbia County Sheriff Roger Brandner recommended residents of the towns of Caledonia and Lewiston — particularly those who live on or near Levee Road/Fairfield Street and the Blackhawk Park area — find a place to stay out of harm’s way, because near-record flooding is expected to hamper emergency responses in the area.
The Wisconsin was at 20.6 feet as of 5 p.m. Sunday in Portage, the National Weather Service said, slightly above the expected crest of 20 feet, but a little below the record of 20.7 feet set in 2010, and to remain high for several days, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said.
“This is not a time to take chances with your lives and the lives of emergency responders,” Bradner said in a news release.
In Sauk County, emergency management officials recommended Saturday that residents along Levee Road, Plummer’s Grove in the town of Fairfield and Indian Trails near Lake Delton seek alternative housing until further notice due to high water.
Levee Road is closed from Sauk County Highway T through Columbia County.
Jim Fedkenheuer, who lives on Levee Road west of Portage, said Saturday afternoon he and his wife were packing to leave the area. They and their two pets, a dog and a cat, will stay with friends until the water goes down. He said the last time they had to evacuate was years ago.
“This is probably the worst I’ve seen it since I’ve been here,” Fedkenheuer said, adding he’s lived there for roughly 30 years.
Ben Harrison said he doesn’t plan to leave his home on Indian Trail Parkway, which lines the Wisconsin River east of Lake Delton. He said he’s never seen the water get high enough to be a danger in the five years he’s lived there. Harrison estimated it would need to rise another 11 feet to threaten his house.
As of noon Saturday, the river level was at 19.7 feet in Portage, more than 2 feet above the minor flood stage of 17 feet, according to the National Weather Service’s river level monitor, located on the Highway 33 bridge at Portage. By Sunday, the National Weather Service forecasts a river level of 20.1 feet at Portage.
The record level, set in in September 2010, is 20.7 feet.
Sauk County officials said there is no concern for properties below the Prairie du Sac dam.
A century-old berm that runs mostly along private property in both Sauk and Columbia counties, is unstable, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials are monitoring it, as they are unsure how the rising water will affect it.
The evacuation was not mandatory as of Saturday, but strongly recommended.
People who evacuate should take with them their purses or wallets, vital documents, pets and any medications they may need.
Red Cross opened a shelter at the Portage United Methodist Church at 1804 New Pinery Road for those displaced by the flooding, Kathleen Johnson, Columbia County Emergency Management coordinator, said Sunday.
Columbia County residents who are displaced are invited to call 608-742-4166, extension 1 to seek assistance if needed. In Sauk County, the contact number for displaced people is 608-963-2585.
Reporter Susan Endres contributed to this report.