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Walker Declares State Of Emergency Following Western Wisconsin Flooding, Mudslides

One Fatality Reported, Damage Widespread After Thursday's Heavy Rain

Flooding and sign
Jeff Roberson/AP Photo

Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency for 13 counties in western Wisconsin after heavy rains caused flash flooding and mudslides Thursday.

Several highways are closed due to flood damage and one fatality has been reported.

A mudslide near Wheatland washed a home onto Highway 35 early Thursday morning and authorities later located the deceased resident.

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Flooding also caused a train to derail along the Mississippi River, spilling about 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

Five train cars and two locomotives derailed around 5:40 a.m. near Lynxville, about 25 miles north of Prairie du Chien.

BNSF Railway Spokeswoman Amy McBeth said 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel have leaked from a ruptured fuel tank on one of the company’s locomotives.

“Anytime we get products into the river that don’t belong there, especially chemical products, it’s not a good thing,” said Sabrina Chandler, manager of the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. “But compared to other derailments where we had tens of thousands of gallons of product into the river, I would say this was a pretty mild incident.”

Chandler said flooding in the area made it difficult to tell where the leaked fuel ended up. Of the five derailed train cars, two were empty and the others carried wallboard.

Many communities throughout the region experienced flash flooding early Thursday morning.

Carrie Brudos, DeSoto village clerk, said her community had significant damage.

“In the middle of the night, the trailer court had to be evacuated,” Brudos said. “There was probably a foot of water running through there,” Brudos said. “It carried away a car and a boat and people had water in their cars.”

The water had receded in many communities by the end of the day, but the National Weather Service warned more rain is possible later in the evening.

“In a normal situation a half an inch of rain won’t really cause too much trouble,” said Todd Shea, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in La Crosse. “But given how wet and saturated everything is, plus a lot of the terrain in the region has just become very unstable because of the amount of rain, it won’t take a lot to get us back to some troubles.”

Shea said a flash flood warning is in effect for the area until Friday.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.