Janesville64.8°

Rock River again threatens homes south of city

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
March 16, 2009
— It was only eight months ago that the Rock River rose to levels not seen by any living soul.

Sunday, the river was on the rise again.


People living along South River Road south of Janesville were only a little worried.


"As it creeps up every day, it doesn't give you hope that it won't happen again," said Joshua Nehls, 3427 S. River.


But Nehls' housemate, Kevin Eyers, grew up in the house and wasn't concerned about the water standing in the back yard, just 20 feet from the house.


"It's normal. It does that just about every year," Eyers said.


Still, memories of last summer were fresh in everyone's minds. They remember being flooded out, having their cars stranded, and months of work to get their houses livable.


"It was pretty depressing for these families to go through that," Nehls said. "I guess the big question is whether it will happen again."


Not likely, at least not this week.


The river measured 9.9 feet at the Afton gauge Sunday, nearly a foot over flood stage. The National Weather Service predicted it would crest at 10.1 feet Wednesday.


The Afton gauge still showed 9.9 feet this morning. Another 5 inches, and the water would be on the road, the weather service said.


Eleven houses stand on the lowest ground along that stretch of the river. After the massive flooding last year, the owners of three of the houses were ordered to raise their foundations if they wanted to remain.


Linda and Dave Koeninger at 3327 S. River, live in one of the raised houses. They had to sacrifice their garage, but they expanded and remodeled their house, and now they've got a low-ceilinged basement rather than just a crawl space.


The Koeningers' house is about 5 feet higher. They're loving the better view of the river and the fact that even if the water reached 2008 levels, they'd probably be OK.


More than 1,000 square yards of fill were hauled in to surround the house and re-landscape their yard. Now, while some neighbors have lakes in their back yards, the Koeningers' yard is dry.


"I'm not scared," Linda said of the current situation.


Their biggest concern is that the road would become impassable like last year, when they were without their cars for two weeks.


Now, they say, if the road is threatened, they'll move their vehicles to higher ground.


The road remained dry Sunday, but the river was out of its banks.


The Koeningers' next-door neighbors at 3337 S. River, Wayne Sockriter and his mother, Caroline Robb, also had their house raised.


Like the Koeningers, Sockriter said his basement is bone dry. In years past, a flooded crawl space was common.


Sockriter just grinned when high water was mentioned. He, too, feels his home is safe.


"It's really nice living out here," he said. "Quiet and everything."


And although this "flood" is just a backyard phenomenon for the lower-lying neighbors, it's still a concern, even if the forecast is for the water to recede.


"You never knew last year that it was going to happen, either," Nehls said.



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