Historic 2008 flooding remembered

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)-- The week of June 4, marks the 10th anniversary of the historic 2008 floods in southern Wisconsin.

Three people were killed and thousands of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed as flood waters impacted 31 counties for almost a month. It was the worst disaster since the Great Floods of 1993 that hit the Midwest.

“It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since the 2008 floods forever changed communities such as Gays Mills and Rock Springs along with Lake Delton,” said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general and Homeland Security Advisor. Dunbar was adjutant general at the time and oversaw the state of Wisconsin’s response to the flooding.

The ground was saturated from flooding that had occurred in the previous year, combined with more than 100 inches of snowfall during the winter. When heavy rains began on June 5, there was soon widespread flooding because there was no place for the water to go. Some areas would eventually receive up to 14 inches of rain that month.

31 counties were declared a federal disaster area.

In 2008, floodwaters displaced thousands of people, with more than 2,600 seeking emergency shelter. Volunteers provided 77,000 meals. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) nearly 24,000 individuals were approved for federal disaster assistance with more than $56 million in grants distributed to those impacted by the flooding through FEMA’s Individual and Household Program.

More than 850 local and state government agencies applied for assistance under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. FEMA obligated $48.5 million. While most of the repairs and financial reimbursement were made in two years, there were some larger projects that took longer. The final closeout for the 2008 flood was made in March 2017.

“Another lesson learned was the importance of long-term recovery,” Wisconsin Emergency Management Administrator Brian Satula observed. “Just because the flood waters go away, doesn’t mean things are back to normal for a community. Recovery can take years, as many of these communities have discovered.”