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With More Rain Coming, Madison Officials Say More Homes At Risk Of Flooding

Preparations Continue To Stop Flooding In Dane County

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Floodwater seeps onto East Washington Avenue, a main Madison thoroughfare
Floodwater seeps onto East Washington Avenue, a main Madison thoroughfare, Friday, Aug. 24. Jenny Peek/WPR

With more rain in the forecast for the coming hours, Dane County residents and local officials are continuing to take steps to stem rising floodwaters in some areas.

On Sunday night, Madison city officials said that there were new risk areas in the city for flash flooding during an intense rainstorm. On the city’s website, they indicated that there were about 1,200 homes that were added to the flash flood risk areas. They said flyers will be distributed to these homes on Monday warning of the flooding.

The new homes that were added to impact area are near storm drains that empty into the lake, said Bryan Johnson of the Madison Streets Division. Previous flash flood impact maps “prioritized neighborhoods with storm drains that empty into the Yahara River since they presented an immediate concern,” Johnson said.

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The National Weather Service has extended the flooding warning for the northeastern part of Dane County until 4:30 p.m. Monday. Weather service officials said “additional rainfall is expected starting later (Sunday), and may result in additional flooding across the area.”

The flooding can be tied to torrential storms that came last Monday and early Tuesday and dumped more than 11 inches of rain in some areas of Madison and surrounding Dane County. The surge of water caused widespread flooding that claimed one man’s life.

Contending with the surge of rainwater and the accompanying flooding, particularly near the chain of Yahara Lakes and Madison’s Isthmus, has become a major focus for local officials and area residents. Major roadways have been closed and some residents are taking steps to protect their homes because of the rising water levels

City officials continued to report Sunday that there are still multiple road closures near where the Yahara River cuts through the Isthmus. They said this is because of water being released from Lake Mendota by the Tenney Dam. They said flooding is affecting the city’s near east side, east of Blair Street. Many roads have floodwaters on them or are closed, including East Johnson Street. East Washington Avenue has lane restrictions because of the water levels.

The weather service forecast said Monday will see scattered showers and thunderstorms before 2 p.m. Chance of precipitation is 40 percent. There’s a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms Monday night, mainly after midnight. On Tuesday, showers and thunderstorms are likely after 4 p.m.. Chance of precipitation is 70 percent. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch are possible.

Flooding Closes Interstate In Ozaukee County

Another drenching storm has dumped more than 7 inches of rain on parts of Ozaukee and Washington counties early Monday morning.

The storm downed trees and caused flooding that closed Interstate 43 in Ozaukee County. Several vehicles were stranded in high water on I-43 near Port Washington.

NWS officials said several communities have street flooding, including West Bend, Jackson, Saukville, Grafton and Port Washington.

City, County Officials Identify Some Signs Of Improvement

At a Sunday afternoon news conference, city of Madison officials said water levels for Lake Mendota had dropped about an inch. The Yahara River, at East Main Street, fell about 1.5 inches due to reduction in water flow. The remaining lakes saw a 0.75-inch rise.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said he is still asking people to stay off streets.

Dane County officials released a statement Sunday afternoon identifying several positive improvements, including improved water flow in some areas, the opening of one area roadway and the closing of one Red Cross shelter in Mazomanie.

County officials said Sunday afternoon that water flow volumes out of the Yahara Lakes watershed “now exceed incoming levels from the north watershed areas.” They said officials have completed a debris cleanup in the Yahara River areas so as to improve flow and increase water volumes. They said that this effort will continue in problem areas as needed. They said that “water flows have reduced to below the peak flow of 330,000 gallons per minute at last measurement.”

A Red Cross shelter at Mazomanie Elementary School was closed Sunday morning, but a shelter at Madison West High School is still open.

Highway 14, connecting Middleton to Cross Plains, is now open.

Madison city officials warn that the elevated lake levels might cause the flooding that could continue “for one to two weeks.”

City officials were continuing to call for volunteers to help fill sandbags. They said that anyone willing to volunteer to fill sandbags can fill out an online form, and they will be added to an email list. Sandbags are being filled and the National Guard was on call for possible evacuations.

City Officials Warned Of Possible Evacuations

Soglin said Friday that some city residents should be ready to head for higher ground, if necessary. The mayor said that city workers are placing warnings on the doors of 1,700 homes notifying those living there that they’re in danger of being flooded. City officials were pasting bright orange warning leaflets on each of the homes.

“One scenario we are preparing for is heavy, extensive rain, say, 5 inches or more rain,” Soglin said. “That would require evacuation.”

Soglin said 40,000 sandbags had been filled by early Friday afternoon.

Initial Damage Estimate At $108M

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said Friday the initial damage assessment in Madison and the surrounding county is $108 million. Officials say damage to public infrastructure totals $38 million. Outlying municipalities including Mazomanie, Black Earth and Cross Plains were hardest hit.

County officials said Sunday that the United Way’s 211 reported receiving more than 1,200 individual reports of private property damage. They urged residents to report damage as soon as possible and that reporting is available by phone or online.

Since earlier this week, city and county officials said engineers were working with the state Department of Natural Resources to monitor the water levels and prepare for what could be to come.

City officials are urging motorists not to drive through standing water; to park on high ground; and avoid driving to work during peak commuting hours if possible.

Parking requirements for street sweeping have been suspended, and people with street parking permits will see increased flexibility until further notice. Parking tickets will not be issued and city parking ramps will be offering free parking from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m. through Aug. 31. Madison Metro Transit will also be offering free bus service for all city routes throughout the weekend to minimize auto use.

Last week, Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in the county.

For up-to-date information on road closures, visit the city’s flooding information site. For more information on flooding, visit the county’s flooding information site.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with additional information.

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