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With More Rain In Forecast, Dane County Prepares For More Flooding

Officials Set Initial Damage Estimate At $108M

By
Jenny Peek/WPR

Officials in Wisconsin’s flood-ravaged capital city of Madison are warning residents to be ready to evacuate as more rain heads toward the state this weekend.

With more rain in the forecast for later on Sunday, area residents and city and emergency officials are bracing for more flooding.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports some roadways in Madison’s Isthmus were closed Saturday due to flooding. Sandbags are being filled and the National Guard was on call for possible evacuations.

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

The National Weather Service forecast on Saturday predicted that there was a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 1 p.m. on Sunday. Forecasters said that showers and thunderstorms were likely on Sunday night, with the chance of precipitation being 70 percent. They said new rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch is possible. There’s more rain forecast for Monday.

City officials are now calling for volunteers to help fill sandbags in Madison. 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.

More rainfall follows the torrential storms that hit the area last Monday. The storms dumped more than 11 inches of rain in some areas of Madison and surrounding Dane County, causing widespread flooding. The deluge washed out roads, flooded homes and caused one death.

Madison Mayor Paul 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.”

While Soglin said that situation is unlikely, the city is preparing for the worst. Soglin said 40,000 sandbags had been filled by early Friday afternoon.

The city has closed main thoroughfares in the Isthmus because of flooding and was preparing to close additional roads and identify detour routes. City and county officials are continuing to monitor the Yahara Lakes’ water levels.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said that drivers can still get across the Isthmus despite the floodwaters, but might need to take alternate routes. Parisi said road closures will be changing.

“East Johnson Street is closed. Certain lanes on East Washington are closed. That could change throughout the day depending on the water levels and on how much rain we get,” Parisi said. “We’re forecast to get, I believe, about a quarter inch today. Then, fairly quiet until Sunday.”

Before more rain arrived Friday, county officials opened up the gates on Thursday to the Tenney Locks on Madison’s near east side.

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

Parisi: Initial Damage Estimate At $108M

Parisi said on Friday that 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.

As of 3 p.m. Friday, 966 individual reports of private property damage had been reported to the United Way, according to a Dane County press release.

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.

Earlier this 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.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated with more information.

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