Weather Forecast


Wakeup call: ‘Severe’ flooding possible this spring

Bill Martens, Wisconsin Public Radio

Wisconsinites should prepare for significant flooding in the weeks ahead, according to one expert.

Steve Buan, a hydrologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, said there is “pretty good potential” for spring flooding in Wisconsin.

Buan stated that normal to above-normal precipitation fell in autumn, then froze, leaving the ground saturated. On top of that, he added, sits a snowpack amounting to about 4 to 6 inches of liquid equivalent north of a Hudson to Green Bay line, and 2 to 4 inches south.

“If this snowpack were to come off relatively quickly -- say, late March or early April ... we’ll see significant flooding, if not severe flooding, especially in the northern half of the state or the rivers that come from the north -- the Chippewa, Black and Wisconsin -- bringing all that water down to the south,” he said.

Buan noted that communities most at risk include those along the Chippewa River between Eau Claire and Durand, Portage along the Wisconsin, and those along the Fox in southeastern Wisconsin.

Minor spring flooding is not unusual in Wisconsin, but Buan said this year is likely to stand out.

“Really, we haven’t seen a significant spring flood in quite a while, so I don’t think folks are really used to it as much as they maybe were back in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” he said.

Buan warned that a spring flood is “nothing for children to play in,” and that most fatalities occur while driving a car when motorists are unaware of the water’s depth, especially at night.

Because drainage ways tend to get clogged with snow and ice, Buan said that it can be difficult to predict exactly where flooding will occur.

He recommended that homeowners first make sure that the water can drain off their roofs, and then away from their property.

For those who live near rivers, Buan advised residents to have sandbags ready to go, and if possible, relocate property so that floodwaters don’t sweep it away.