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Walker Tours Dane County Flood Damage After Declaring State Of Emergency

High Water Still Affecting Parts Of Southern Wisconsin After Heavy Rain

Gov. Scott Walker at the State Emergency Operations Center
Gov. Scott Walker at the State Emergency Operations Center in Madison, Wisconsin on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018. Bridgit Bowden/WPR

From the air Wednesday afternoon, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker viewed flood damage in Dane County, where more than 11 inches of rain fell Monday night through Tuesday in the area, according to the National Weather Service.

The Wednesday tour comes the day after Walker declared a state of emergency in the flood-stricken county.

“Right now, our declaring emergency more than anything is about securing the safety of our citizens and making sure that people first and foremost are safe, and subsequently do all that we can to endure that property is safe,” he said at a Wednesday visit to the State Emergency Operations Center in Madison.

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On Tuesday, Walker said the state is ready to assist in recovery efforts after torrential rains prompted evacuations and left at least one person dead in the south-central Wisconsin county.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan sent a letter Tuesday to President Donald Trump, asking him to provide federal assistance for flood recovery efforts if Walker seeks a federal disaster declaration.

Dane County Emergency Management is urging communities along the chain of Yahara Lakes to be prepared for flooding. Emergency managers say the levels on the Yahara Lakes have been steadily increasing over the past 24 hours with the heavy rain fall.

The levels are expected to continue to rise downstream of Lake Mendota, possibly rising another 3 to 6 inches in the next 24 hours in places along Lake Monona, Lake Waubesa and Lake Kegonsa. Officials say the City of Monona and Town of Dunn may experience flooding in the coming days.

The county is sending hundreds of sandbags and a sandbagging machine to the area.

Dane County health officials are also sending out a reminder of what can be lurking in the water. Flood waters can carry sewage, manure, pesticides, gas and other health hazards. Officials recommend cleaning up contaminants as soon as possible to prevent the growth of mold.

Private well owners may need to disinfect their water. If the well head has been submerged the contaminated flood water may have polluted the drinking water.

The emergency situation also continued through the night Tuesday for residents of Bellville, which straddles Dane and Green counties. There, people filled sandbags to protect their properties from flood water as the swelling Sugar River overflowed.

Village of Bellville spokesman Terry Kringle told WKOW-TV about nine families were evacuated on the east side of the community and are staying with friends or family. Kringle said the bridge over Highway 69 was closed.

The heavy rain and flooding that began Monday night swamped major roads and intersections and knocked out power to thousands of people. According to Madison Gas and Electric, more than three dozen separate power outage incidents affected about 6,000 electric customers Monday night.

The floods led to dozens of water rescues and continued to cause disruptions to Tuesday commutes. Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said many people were rescued from their vehicles by law enforcement, but added that the rescues “took place in vehicles that should not have been on our roadways driving into water.”

At about 9 p.m. Monday on Madison’s west side, firefighters responded to a vehicle with three people inside that was stranded in flood water. Officials said two people made it to safely out of the vehicle, but a 70-year-old man was swept away and remained missing until emergency personnel located his body Tuesday morning.

Wednesday afternoon, the Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the man as James A. Sewell of Madison.

Walker said he plans to visit flood-damaged communities on foot Thursday.

Editor’s note: This story was last updated at 3:25 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, with information about the identity of the drowning victim. Bridgit Bowden contributed to this report.