UPDATE: Columbia County Flooding

UPDATED: Monday, October 4, 2010 --- 8:45 p.m.

A swollen Wisconsin River continues to cause problems in Portage tonight.

One week after the river hit a record level some homeowners are cleaning up while others are still waiting for the water to drop.

Floodwaters still cover Fred Fuerbringer's yard, surround his satellite dish and drown his pier.

He says the water is dropping but slowly, "My son started raking up some of the stuff in front and around where we could, cleaning up the debris and that."

It's been a busy few days of cleanup in Portage's Blackhawk Neighborhood. You don't have to look far to see rugs and carpet hanging out to dry.

The water was so deep in this area boats were the only way you could get here for a week.

Fuerbringer didn't get back in until Saturday. He says he came two inches away from having water in his place.

He says, "I have carpet tile inside and first thing we did is inspect the tile for dampness and we didn't have any so we said, well we're ok."

One week ago the one road into the neighborhood was the problem. It was covered by water and the DNR was worried if the levy collapsed the road could wash out. Today the road may be dry but the standing water next to it is proof the area is far from back to normal.

High water still covers some roads preventing people from reaching their homes. Other places along the river are still underwater.

And tonight a warning from Emergency Management, contamination has been reported in some wells.

One week removed from the river's peak the problems are still popping up, forcing homeowners to be patient and take things one step at a time.

Fuerbringer says, "When it goes down to normal we clean it up."

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UPDATED Monday, October 4, 2010 --- 5:15 p.m.

Update from the Columbia County Emergency Management:
COLUMBIA COUNTY FLOOD VICTIMS INFORMATION

- CONTAMINATED WELLS – Any individuals with private wells in or around flooded areas are encouraged not to drink their well water until it is tested as some contamination has been reported in the Blackhawk Park area. Free Water Test Kits are available Monday through Friday 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM at Columbia County Health & Human Services 2652 Murphy Road, Portage, WI 53901 or call 608-742-9227. These damages also need to be reported to the Columbia County Emergency Management Office by calling 608-742-4166 Ext. 1308. Free water is available at the Columbia County Emergency Management Office, 711 E. Cook St., Portage from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday, starting Tuesday, October 5th, 2010.

- FREE WATER TO FLOODED INDIVIDUALS - Free water is available at the Columbia County Emergency Management Office, 711 E. Cook St., Portage from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday, starting Tuesday, October 5, 2010.

- FREE WATER TEST KITS-Available Monday through Friday 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM at Columbia County Health & Human Services 2652 Murphy Road, Portage, WI 53901 or call 608-742-9227

- COLUMBIA COUNTY PLANNING & ZONING OFFICE REMINDS PEOPLE- As a result of the flooding that recently occurred in Columbia County staff from the Planning and Zoning Department will be inspecting homes and other structures throughout the County for evidence of substantial damage. These inspections are required by the Columbia County Floodplain Zoning Ordinance and apply to all structures within the 100-year floodplain as shown on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).

Property owners need to be aware that repairs, reconstruction, and new construction are subject to Columbia County ordinances and these activities may require a permit. Construction activities without a proper permit are considered to be non-compliant and may result in fines and/or removal of the non-compliant construction. To prevent or minimize any issues associated with permits the Department is asking that you please don’t begin any repairs or reconstruction until you have contacted the Planning and Zoning Department at 608-742-9660.

- CALEDONIA RESIDENT FLOOD DEBRIS DISPOSAL – Any Town of Caledonia residents may dispose debris from the flood at the Caledonia dump located on Potter Road off of County Highway U.

- REPORTING FLOOD DAMAGES – Columbia County Emergency Management is encouraging any individuals with any kind of damages to call in and report them. Even if you don’t think your damages are severe enough these numbers may help your neighbors or friends to get some kind of assistance in the future.

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UPDATED Thursday, September 30, 2010 --- 9:50 a.m.

From the Columbia County Emergency Management:
MONETARY DONATIONS FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY FLOOD VICTIMS:

Anyone wishing to give a monetary donation to the Columbia County Flood Victims should send a check made out to: WISCONSIN VOAD (Wisconsin Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters) 750 Windsor Street Suite 301 Sun Prairie, WI 53590

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UPDATED Wednesday, September 29, 2010 -- 5:08pm
By Zac Schultz

Columbia County: With the floodwaters receding...residents of the Blackhawk community near Portage are starting the process of cleaning up.

But the DNR says it's time to start thinking about a long term solution to the flooding problem.

"It's the first time my whole lot was under water. I'm normally a pretty good-sized island down there. "The road to Steve Wojak's home along the Wisconsin River is underwater. "We're going to go by boat. I'm going to start cleaning up the mess that was made from this."

Wojak was surprised with how quickly the water came up last weekend, giving him no chance to save his boats or his truck. "I'm very, very frustrated with the way they're managing this river over the years."

He's not alone.

"We've had this problem before," says Steven Beckius. "I don't know why they're not doing anything else about it. They're saying it takes a lot of money."

The DNR has spent more than half a million dollars maintaining the 14-mile long levee the last two decades.

"I don't think that they'll last for the future," says Lloyd Eagan, the DNR South Central Region Director.

She says the dykes were built by farmers in the 1890's. To rebuild them properly would cost too much. "We're talking several million dollars per mile."

A 2007 DNR study recommends getting rid of the levees and buying out the homeowners. "We would work on a solution for relocation and we would continue to maintain the dykes until we had people that had relocated," says Eagan.

As the water recedes these homeowners are not about to just walk away and let the DNR buy them out.

"I don't think so, no," says Wojak.

Beckius just bought a few months ago. "I really like this property. I'd really have to think about it. I know a few people that live out here and they probably would not sell at all. They like it out here."

Eagan says at least one man told her this weekend he was ready. "He said to me, I'm ready for a buyout. He said that right to me. I don't know how many in the community feel that way."

The DNR doesn't know how much it would cost to buy out homeowners or where the money would come from, but they do plan to talk with homeowners once the water is gone.

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Click HERE To Submit Your Pictures And Videos Of Flooding

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UPDATED Wednesday, September 30, 2010 --- 11:12 a.m.

Columbia County Status Report On Flooding

- A manual reading of the Wisconsin River at the Highway 33 bridge in Portage was 18.7 feet at 8:00 AM today’s date

- The DNR will continue surveillance throughout the day until the river levels hit the trigger levels where they begin to de-activate

- Evacuated residents are encouraged not to return to their homes until the water recedes

- People are reminded to not drive through standing water on roads

DAMAGE REPORTING - People who have damages from the flooding are encouraged to call the Columbia County Emergency Management Office at 608-742-4166 Ext. 1308 with a list of damages or pick up the form at the Portage City Hall, 115 W. Pleasant St., Portage, from 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM, Monday - Friday, Columbia County Emergency Management, 711 E. Cook St., Portage, from 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday - Friday, and the Columbia County Recycling/Solid Waste Department, W7465 Highway 16, Pardeeville, 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Monday – Friday and drop off at the completed form Columbia County Emergency Management Office

FLOOD VICTIM INFORMATION PACKETS – Packets of information related to the flood will be available at the Portage City Hall, 115 W. Pleasant St., Portage, from 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM, Monday - Friday, Columbia County Emergency Management, 711 E. Cook St., Portage, from 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM,
Monday - Friday, and the Columbia County Recycling/Solid Waste Department, W7465 Highway 16, Pardeeville, 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday - Friday.

SANDBAG DROPOFF for Columbia County residents – Drop off sandbags at the Columbia County Highway Department, Old Hwy 16, Wyocena at the same area where they picked up the sandbags

SANDBAG DROPOFF for Town of Dekorra residents – Drop off sandbags at the Dekorra Landfill on Hall Road, Tuesday’s 12:00 PM- 6:00 PM and Saturday from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

SANDBAG DROPOFF for City of Portage – Drop off sandbags at City Garage at 600 Block of Washington Street, back of building, and put on skids

SANDBAG PICKUP for City of Portage – Put sandbags on boulevard ON SKIDS and the City of Portage will pick them up off boulevards only

Free Cleanup Kits - Available at the Portage City Hall, 115 W. Pleasant St., Portage, from 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM, Monday - Friday, Columbia County Emergency Management, 711 E. Cook St., Portage, from 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday - Friday, and the Columbia County Recycling/Solid Waste Department, W7465 Highway 16, Pardeeville, 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday - Friday and Dekorra residents at 106 S. Main St., Poynette (Poynette Village Hall), 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM, Monday – Thursday, 9:00 AM – 12 Noon on Friday – 608-635-2014

Free Water Test Kits-Available Monday through Friday 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM at Columbia County Health & Human Services 2652 Murphy Road, Portage, WI 53901 or call 608-742-9227

Free Tetanus Shots -Available at our public health walk in clinics on Mondays and Wednesdays 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM and during immunization clinics the 2nd and 4th Mondays from 2:30 PM to 5:30 PM at Columbia County Health & Human Services 2652 Murphy Road, Portage, WI 53901 or call 608-742-9227

VOLUNTEERS – If anyone wants to volunteer help in the flood cleanup, please call Columbia County Emergency Management at 608-742-4166 Ext. 1308, and give your name, phone number where you can be reached, and date and time you would be available, and what kind of help you can offer

NEED HELP? – If anyone is in need of volunteer help with cleanup from the flooding, please call Columbia County Emergency Management, 608-742-4166 Ext. 1308

BE AWARE OF CONTRACTOR FRAUD – Flood victims should be aware that contractors may be contacting you to help. We are advising that people should check references on contractors before hiring them to avoid entering into fraud contracts .

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UPDATED Wednesday, September 29, 2010 --- 11:05 a.m.

From the DNR:

PORTAGE – The water level of the Wisconsin River at Portage continues to drop at the rate of about one-inch an hour and Department of Natural Resources officials are hoping the worst is over at the Caledonia-Lewiston Levee, popularly known as the Portage Levee.

“We are not completely out of the woods yet, but it appears that the levee is holding-up, even though it is saturated with water and will take some time to dry out,” said DNR public affairs manager Greg Matthews here.

After reaching an all-time recorded high water level on Monday, Sept. 27 – cresting at about 20.6 feet – the Wisconsin River water level at Portage had dropped to 18.7 feet, almost a foot below flood stage, as of 8:00 a.m. this morning.

DNR operations crews inspected the 14-mile long sand levee early this morning and found it in “relatively good shape,” said Matthews.

Ten sandbag chimneys erected by DNR crews over the last several days around boils – water bubbling through the levee itself – were among the levee structures inspected this morning and only four were “passing a small amount of water,” noted Matthews.

That included a boil at the once imperiled Blackhawk section of the levee, he added.

DNR will continue to inspect the levee for the next week or so and agency dam safety engineers will be brought it to assess the structure’s integrity, said DNR property supervisor Brian Hefty.

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UPDATED Wednesday, September 29, 2010 --- 10:15 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin River is dropping, promising relief for the state's flood-weary south-central section.

The river started overflowing its banks on Saturday after heavy rains to the north flowed downstream. The river poured around a levee and flooded low-lying areas in the town of Caledonia, just outside Portage. Dozens evacuated.

The river peaked at 20.6 feet on Monday, about three feet above flood stage.

State Department of Natural Resources spokesman Greg Matthews says the river was at 18.7 feet early Wednesday morning. He expects it will drop below flood stage by mid-afternoon.

Columbia County Emergency Management Director Pat Beghin didn't immediately return a message seeking an update on when residents will be allowed to return to their homes.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Tuesday, September 28, 2010 --- 7:03 p.m.

Release from Columbia Co. Emergency Management:

-A manual reading of the Wisconsin River at the Highway 33 bridge in Portage was 20.0 feet at 2:30 PM today’s date. Another reading will take place at 6:00 Am on Wednesday, September 29, 2010

-The DNR will continue surveillance throughout the night until the river levels hit the trigger levels where they are activated

-Evacuated residents are encouraged not to return to their homes until the water recedes

-Officials continue to man the checkpoint at Blackhawk Park

-People are reminded to not drive through standing water on roads

-People who have damages from the flooding are encouraged to call the Columbia County Emergency Management Office at 608-742-4166 Ext 1308 with a list of damages

-Free Water Test Kits available Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 4:30 pm at
Columbia County Health & Human Services 2652 Murphy Road, Portage, WI 53901 or call 608-742-9227

-Free Tetanus Shots available at our public health walk in clinics on Mondays and Wednesdays 8:00 am to 12:00 pm and during immunization clinics the 2nd and 4th Mondays from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm at Columbia County Health & Human Services 2652 Murphy Road, Portage, WI 53901 or call 608-742-9227

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UPDATED Tuesday, September 28, 2010 --- 11:13 a.m.

Update from the DNR:

PORTAGE – Conditions have stabilized along the 14-mile century-old Caledonia-Lewiston here and water levels on the Wisconsin River are now expected to drop rapidly.

“There was no change overnight along any of our three work sections (Caledonia, Lewiston and Blackhawk) as far as discovering new problem areas of boils (water bubbling through the levee) or seepage,” said DNR Incident Commander Aaron Young.

The Blackhawk section, which has been a cause of major concern over the last two days, “is still eroding, but at a slower pace,” said Young.

Ironically, authorities are predicting a drop in the Wisconsin River’s water level of up to three feet in the next 24 hours and “this could cause sloughing (erosion) on the river side of the levee,” said DNR public affairs manager Greg Matthews.

“We would prefer that the river drop more gradually, at a lower rate per day to avoid further damage to an already saturated structure. Nevertheless, we will try to handle whatever nature deals us,” he added.

The Wisconsin River peaked at around 20.6 feet yesterday and had been expected to maintain that level for several days before starting to drop. But reports of the rate of water passing through upstream dams seem to indicate that the river will drop quickly.

DNR’s Incident Management Team will continue to maintain surveillance along the 14-mile long levee as long as needed, according to Young.

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UPDATED Tuesday, September 28, 2010 --- 10:25 a.m.

Update from Columbia Co. Emergency Management:

WISCONSIN RIVER FLOODING UPDATE

- The situation of the levee has not changed over night

- The manual reading of the Wisconsin River at the Highway 33 bridge in Portage was 20.25 at 8:50 AM today’s date and will be taking another reading at 12:00 PM

- The Wisconsin River is anticipated to continue dropping over the next few days

- Residents or businesses with any damages are asked to call the Columbia County Emergency Operations Center at 608-742-4166 Ext. 1 to file an initial damage report

- THERE IS NO FEMA ASSISTANCE AT THIS TIME

- The Red Cross shelter in Portage will be closing Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 10:00 AM

- Red Cross will continue assisting any residents needs by calling 1-800-733-2767

- The Governor has declared a State of Emergency for Columbia County

- County Highway JV will remain closed until the bridge is inspected after the water recedes

- DNR night operations monitoring the levee will continue until further notice

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UPDATED Tuesday, September 28, 2010 --- 7:10 a.m.

PORTAGE, Wis. (AP) -- Emergency authorities say a 14-mile levee system partially breached by floodwaters in south central Wisconsin is holding.

Columbia County Emergency Management director Pat Beghin says Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources workers monitored the levee overnight and will continue those efforts Tuesday.

Beghin says about 25 homes remain occupied in Blackhawk Park, a neighborhood that has been cut off since floodwaters from the burgeoning Wisconsin River made its only access road impassable following days of heavy rain.

Some 300 people live in the neighborhood in Caledonia, just southeast of Portage.

Gov. Jim Doyle declared a state of emergency in Columbia County after the river reached a record high level. The declaration directs state agencies to assist in recovery efforts.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Monday, September 27, 2010 --- 5:25 p.m.

From the Red Cross:

The American Red Cross – Badger Chapter is ready to help individuals and families affected by area flooding. The Red Cross is providing a variety of services to those evacuated or displaced. The shelter set up at the St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church (211 Pleasant Street, Portage WI) will remain open through 9/28/2010 and as long as needed. At the shelter community members can receive food, comfort kits, crisis counseling, replacement health supplies and lodging. As of noon today, the Red Cross has provided temporary lodging for 9 individuals and served 330 meals & snacks to community members and sandbagging crews in Columbia County.

The Red Cross is also responding to flooding in Juneau County. The Red Cross is providing Clean-Up Kits and “Repairing Your Flooded Home” booklets for community members who have water damage in their home. Clean-Up Kits and booklet are available for pick up at the Necedah Village Hall located at 101 Center St Necedah WI.

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UPDATED Monday, September 27, 2010 --- 3:15 p.m.

Press Release from the Governor's Office:
Governor Doyle Declares State of Emergency for Columbia County

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today declared a state of emergency in Columbia County after heavy rains pushed the Wisconsin River near Portage to an all time flood high.

“Heavy rains have caused serious flooding in Columbia County and threatened sand levees,” Governor Doyle said. “I have declared a State of Emergency in Columbia County, and ordered state agencies to continue doing everything possible to help people and communities affected by the flooding. State Emergency Management and DNR officials have been on the ground since last week, and are working closely with the National Guard to address the situation.”

Last week Governor Doyle declared a State of Emergency for Buffalo, Clark, Marathon, Portage, Jackson, Trempealeau and Wood Counties following strong storms and flooding. Flooding forced the evacuation of downtown Arcadia in Trempealeau County, washed out roads and bridges, downed power lines and damaged infrastructure.

To view the Executive Order, visit: http://www.wisgov.state.wi.us/docview.asp?docid=20356

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UPDATED Monday, September 27, 2010 --- 11:20 a.m.

UPDATE from the DNR:

PORTAGE – The situation along the century-old Caledonia-Lewiston Levee has deteriorated overnight. There are numerous boils – water bubbling though the levee itself -- and seepage under the toe of the 14-mile-long levee. Of particular concern is a boil in the Blackhawk area located south and east of State Highway 33. Despite taking precautionary measures, including building what’s called a sandbag chimney around it, the boil has grown larger and is passing water and sediment through the dike. Department of Natural Resources engineers report there is a possibility of collapse, but none has occurred at this time. No section of the dike – locally known as levees – has collapsed.

“The Blackhawk area is our major area of concern. This structure is wood, dirt and sand, constructed by farmers and horse teams 120 years ago,” said Greg Matthews, public affairs manager for the Department of Natural Resources. “Should the dike fail, it is very hard to predict how quickly or how wide the collapse would be. For this reason we are urging people to listen to instructions from Columbia County emergency authorities.”

Matthews reports that the entire 14-mile Portage dike system is saturated and in poor shape. “Our crews are on 24-hour surveillance. When we see a problem we immediately act to repair it,” he said. Forty employees are monitoring the dike system and numerous sandbagging operations are in process.

The Wisconsin River is at an all time flood high at 20.6 feet, flooding from heavy rains in the western and northern parts of the state. The river is expected to crest as early as today, but is expected to take several days after crest to recede from current flood levels. DNR’s Incident Management Team will continue to maintain surveillance not only in the Blackhawk area but along sections of the 14 mile long levee for several more days.

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UPDATED Monday, September 27, 2010 --- 10:15 a.m.

PORTAGE, Wis. (AP) -- Dozens of residents have opted to stay in their flood-stranded homes in central Wisconsin, even as a nearby levee weakened by recent heavy rain barely holds.

Columbia County Emergency Management director Pat Beghin says the levee on the Wisconsin River has deteriorated in the Town of Caledonia, just west of Portage. The river has been swollen by recent thunderstorms.

Beghin says if the levee breaks it could destroy an already flooded access road to the town's Blackhawk Park neighborhood. Some 75 of 300 area residents have decided to stay in their homes.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources engineers are inspecting the 14-mile levee system, which includes some dikes built mainly of sand in the 1890s.

Beghin says authorities are monitoring riverside towns where minor flooding has occurred.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Monday, September 27, 2010 --- 9:30 a.m.

Any persons being displaced from their home due to the flooding near Portage may take their pets to Pampered Paws. Pampered Paws will house pets at no cost. They are located at:
4107 State Highway 13
Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
608-254-7387

All pets need up to date vaccinations and a record showing this.

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UPDATED Monday, September 27, 2010 --- 9:00 a.m.

***Alert from the National Weather Service:
FLASH FLOOD WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MILWAUKEE/SULLIVAN WI

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN SULLIVAN HAS ISSUED A

* FLASH FLOOD WARNING FOR RAPID RIVER RISES IN...
CENTRAL COLUMBIA COUNTY IN SOUTH CENTRAL WISCONSIN...

* UNTIL 1000 AM CDT

* AT 6 AM CDT...THE FLASH FLOOD WARNING IS BEING REISSUED DUE TO THE UNCERTAINTY OF THE CONDITION OF THE FAILING LEVEE SYSTEM. YESTERDAY... EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT REPORTED THAT THE SAND LEVEE LOCATED ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE WISCONSIN RIVER JUST SOUTH OF PORTAGE WAS FAILING. THIS LEVEE WAS LOCATED JUST SOUTHEAST OF HIGHWAY 33...AND NORTH OF BLACKHAWK ROAD AND OLD RIVER ROAD.

ONCE THE LEVEE COMPLETELY FAILS...IT IS UNKNOWN HOW FAR SOUTH THE FLOOD WATERS OF THE WISCONSIN RIVER WILL TRAVEL. THERE IS A LIKELIHOOD THAT OVER 100 HOMES COULD BE AFFECTED BY THE FLOOD WATERS ALONG BLACKHAWK ROAD. IN ADDITION...THE FLOOD WATERS COULD POTENTIALLY CLOSE PORTIONS OF HIGHWAY 33 AND INTERSTATE 39.

THE WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND COLUMBIA COUNTY LAW ENFORCEMENT IS MONITORING THE SITUATION.

THE WISCONSIN RIVER IS AT RECORD LEVELS DUE TO HEAVY RAINFALL WHICH HAD FALLEN UPRIVER LAST THURSDAY.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS: FLOOD WATERS ARE LIKELY TO AFFECT THE AREA SOUTH OF THE WISCONSIN RIVER...JUST SOUTH OF PORTAGE. MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND IMMEDIATELY!

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UPDATED Sunday, September 26, 2010 -- 6:30 p.m.

Portage Community School District posted the following on its Facebook Page:

Due to the flooding in some of our areas, the buses may not be able to pick up students at their normal location.

The buses will not travel on water covered roads.

Parents are responsible to transport your students to the nearest dry area and the bus will pick them up there. Thank you very much for your cooperation.

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UPDATED Sunday, September 26, 2010 --- 6:30 p.m.

Information from the National Weather Service

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN SULLIVAN HAS ISSUED A

* FLASH FLOOD WARNING FOR CENTRAL COLUMBIA COUNTY IN SOUTH CENTRAL WISCONSIN...UNTIL 600 AM CDT MONDAY

* AT 6 PM CDT...EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT REPORTED THAT THE SAND LEVEE LOCATED ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE WISCONSIN RIVER JUST SOUTH OF PORTAGE WAS FAILING.

THIS LEVEE WAS LOCATED JUST SOUTHEAST OF HIGHWAY 33...AND NORTH OF BLACKHAWK ROAD AND OLD RIVER ROAD.

ONCE THE LEVEE COMPLETELY FAILS...IT IS UNKNOWN HOW FAR SOUTH THE FLOOD WATERS OF THE WISCONSIN RIVER WILL TRAVEL.

THERE IS A LIKELIHOOD THAT OVER 100 HOMES COULD BE AFFECTED BY THE FLOOD WATERS ALONG BLACKHAWK ROAD. IN ADDITION...THE FLOOD WATERS COULD POTENTIALLY CLOSE PORTIONS OF HIGHWAY 33 AND INTERSTATE 39.

THE WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND COLUMBIA COUNTY LAW ENFORCEMENT IS MONITORING THE SITUATION.

THE WISCONSIN RIVER IS AT RECORD LEVELS DUE TO HEAVY RAINFALL WHICH HAD FALLEN UPRIVER LAST THURSDAY.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

FLOOD WATERS ARE LIKELY TO AFFECT THE AREA SOUTH OF THE WISCONSIN RIVER...JUST SOUTH OF PORTAGE. MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND IMMEDIATELY!

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UPDATED Sunday, September 26, 2010 --- 4:25 p.m.

PORTAGE, Wis. (AP) -- Officials in central Wisconsin's Columbia County say a levee south of Highway 33 is failing, and access into the Blackhawk Park area is being cut off.

As of 4 p.m. Sunday, the access road into Blackhawk Park will be closed. No one is being allowed in or out until further notice. That includes emergency vehicles.

Officials had been encouraging residents to evacuate, saying they were concerned the Caledonia Levee would fail.

Residents are reminded to turn off utilities if possible, and bring medications and important documents with them, as well as their pets and vaccination records.

A Red Cross reception center is open at the Portage St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Wisconsin River at Wisconsin Dells:
At 2:30 p.m.
-- Stage was 15.9 feet
-- Flood stage is 16.0 feet
-- Impact: At 16.0 feet, there is flooding to agricultural land and wooded land.

Wisconsin River at Portage:
At 4:00 p.m.
-- Stage was 20.4 feet
-- Flood stage is 17.0 feet
-- The river will gradually begin to fall this evening; to below flood stage by Wednesday.

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UPDATED Sunday, September 26, 2010 --- 4:20 p.m.

From the DNR:

PORTAGE – The situation is deteriorating to the point that Department of Natural Resources dam safety officials believe that a section of the century-old Caledonia-Lewiston Levee may collapse in the Blackhawk area located south and east of State Highway 33.

Agency staff have been monitoring a boil – water bubbling out of the toe of the levee in the Blackhawk section – since this morning (Sunday, Sept. 26). Despite taking precautionary measures, including building what’s called a sandbag chimney around it, the boil has grown larger and is passing water and sediment through the levee.

“There’s no further reasonable steps that we can take in the boil location except to hope that the river’s water level drops at least a couple of feet,” said Meg Galloway, Chief of DNR’s Dam and Floodplain Section.

DNR’s Incident Management Team will continue to maintain surveillance not only in the Blackhawk area but along sections of the 14 mile long levee for several more days.

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UPDATED Sunday, September 26, 2010 --- 3:51 p.m.

Update from Columbia Co. Emergency Management:

EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY-LEVEE FAILING The south side of the Caledonia Levee, South of Highway 33 near Blackhawk Park is failing at this time.

At 4:00 PM today, Sunday, September 26, 2010 the access road into Blackhawk Park area will be closed. No one will be allowed access in or out until further notice. EMERGENCY VEHICLES INCLUDING POLICE, FIRE, AND EMS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO REACH RESIDENTS.

We are asking all persons living in the Blackhawk Park area to evacuate immediately.

A Red Cross reception center is open at the Portage St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church located at 211 W. Pleasant Street in Portage. If you have any questions you may call 608-742-4166 Ext. 1308.

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UPDATED Sunday, September 26, 2010 --- 3:15 p.m.

Update from Wisconsin Emergency Management:

Columbia County:

Columbia County has a declared state of emergency and their emergency operations center (EOC) is operational.

The Caledonia-Lewiston levee on the Wisconsin River has real potential for failure. A Department of Natural Resources (DNR) incident engineering team and the Department of Transportation (DOT) are on site and are monitoring the levee condition and the water level.

If the Caledonia-Lewiston levee breaks, there is concern for I-39 north of the Baraboo River bridge. The highway would likely have to close at that point. A local 100-resident subdivision is at risk of a washout of the main road in and out of the community should the levee give way. Homes in the subdivision are on high ground, however, and should not be impacted. The County suggested that the residents evacuate.

Columbia County Emergency Management (EM) requested inmate strike teams from the Portage Correctional Facility to fill sandbags. The WEM Duty Officer contacted the Department of Corrections to inform them of the request for the ongoing tasking of Portage facility inmates.

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UPDATED Sunday, September 26, 2010 --- 1:20 p.m.

From The Red Cross:
Badger Chapter ARC Opens Reception Center in Portage for Flood Evacuees

The American Red Cross Badger Chapter has opened a Reception Center for those who are voluntarily evacuating their homes due to flooding in Columbia County. The center is located at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 211 W. Pleasant Street in Portage.

The reception center will be gathering information on the needs of residents impacted by flooding and providing meals and other assistance as needed. The Center will be staffed by mass care workers including mental health counselors.

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UPDATED Sunday, September 26, 2010 --- 1:05 p.m.

Update from the Columbia County Emergency Management Office:

The DNR has reported that there is a concern of an imminent failure of the south side of the Caledonia Levee, South of Highway 33 near Blackhawk Park.

In the event of a failure there would be no access road open into the Blackhawk Park area for an extended period of time.

EMERGENCY VEHICLES INCLUDING POLICE, FIRE, AND EMS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO REACH RESIDENTS.

We are encouraging all persons living in the Blackhawk Park area to evacuate immediately.

Before You Leave Your Home:
Turn off utilities if possible

Each Household Member Should Bring:
Medication (s)
Cash
Checkbook and Credit Cards
Important Documents: Drivers License, Social Security Card. Insurance Papers and Relative/Friend Phone Numbers, Etc.
Sleeping Bags/Blankets and Pillows
Clothing and Toiletries

Bring Your Pet(s) with:
ID Tags
Leash and/or Pet carriers
Pet Medications
Specialized foods
Vaccination records

LOCK YOUR HOME AND TAKE KEY WITH YOU!

A Red Cross reception center will be open at approximately 12:30 PM on Sunday, September 26, 2010 at the Portage St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church located at 211 W. Pleasant Street in Portage. If you have any questions you may call 608-742-4166 Ext. 1308.

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UPDATED Sunday, September 26, 2010 --- 11:45 a.m.

Update from the Columbia County Emergency Management Office:

The DNR has reported that there is a concern of an imminent failure of the south side of the Caledonia Levee, South of Highway 33 near Blackhawk Park.

In the event of a failure there would be no access road open into the Blackhawk Park area for an extended period of time.

EMERGENCY VEHICLES INCLUDING POLICE, FIRE, AND EMS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO REACH RESIDENTS.

We are encouraging all persons living in the Blackhawk Park area to evacuate immediately.

A Red Cross reception center will be open at approximately 12:30 PM on Sunday, September 26, 2010 at the Portage St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church located at 211 W. Pleasant Street in Portage. If you have any questions you may call 608-742-4166 Ext. 1308.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Flood Statement from the National Weather Service:
--- The FLOOD WARNING continues for the following rivers:
* Wisconsin River at Wisconsin Dells
* Wisconsin River at Portage

At Wisconsin Dells:
- At 8:00 a.m. Sunday the stage was 15.9 feet
- Flood Stage is 16.0 feet
- Impact: At 16.0 feet there is flooding to agriculture land and wooded land.

At Portage:
- At 8:00 a.m. Sunday the stage was 20.1 feet
- Flood Stage is 17.0 feet
- Major flooding is occurring and major flooding is forecasted.
- Impact: At 20.2 feet, floodwaters affect homes in the Blackhawk Park area.

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UPDATED Saturday, September 25, 2010 --- 6:40 p.m.

Special Message from the DNR:

PORTAGE – Surveillance continues this evening by the Department of Natural Resources along sections of the almost 14 mile long Caledonia-Lewiston Levee System here as the Wisconsin River water level continues to rise.

“We’re here to monitor and evaluate the integrity of the levee, make repairs if needed and (if) they can be done safely, and keep local authorities informed of any developments related to the levee,” said DNR Incident Commander John Nielsen.

The 120 year-old levee system has developed significant problems in the past and “although we cannot point to any specific, imminent threats (to public safety) right now, we are concerned with water levels expected to rise,” said Meg Galloway, Chief of DNR’s Dam and Floodplain Section.

Eighteen miles of the Caledonia-Lewiston Levee System were constructed along the Wisconsin River during the 1890’s by various groups of landowners who lived adjacent to the river.

Having been built from locally available materials, mostly sand, without any engineering design or adherence to any standards, these structures could be more aptly referred to as “dikes,” according to Galloway.

Nevertheless and despite their shortcomings, the levees have, in fact, withstood frequent floods and since a major failure in 1938, have remained relatively intact. It should be noted that despite substantial maintenance and emergency actions by local government and DNR, “the continued integrity of the levees has survived because there has not been major flooding events that would damage them and warrant major repairs,” said Galloway.

Nielsen said he expects the DNR’s Incident Management Team to maintain surveillance for several more days.


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