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Janesville preparing for possible flooding

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Jason Smathers
July 24, 2010
— It probably won’t be a repeat of 2008 flooding, but low-lying areas of Janesville could be under water by Tuesday.

The National Weather Service predicted the Rock River near Afton, which serves as an indicator for Janesville, would reach flood stage by this morning. Late Friday, that part of the river was at 8.53 feet. Flood stage is 9 feet.


If rain continued as forecast, the river likely will crest just below 12 feet by Tuesday, causing flooding in Janesville.


Janesville Public Works Director Carl Weber said flooding likely would not be as extensive as in 2008. If the river reaches 12 feet, flooding likely would shut down Riverside, Monterey and Traxler parks and connecting streets. Flooding also could shut down streets in the Mole & Sadler’s subdivision near Riverside Park.


When downtown Janesville flooded in 2008, the Rock River reached 13.5 feet, the highest level on record. Since then, Weber said, the city had taken steps to prevent a repeat. The city removed 15 homes in the Mole & Sadler’s neighborhood and moved a storm drain to Centerway and Main.


While the high water might not be on par with 2008 flooding, the city is taking added precautions. City crews filled 1,000 sandbags Friday afternoon.


Rock County Emergency Management Coordinator Shirley Connors said the towns of Fulton, Milton, Janesville and Rock would offer residents sandbags but not sand. Fulton has set sandbags outside the town hall and is asking residents to sign their names and indicate how many bags they’ve taken.


Janesville closed Riverside Wading Pool to prevent pump damage and water system failure. Palmer Wading Pool and Rockport Pool will remain open.


The high water also forced the towns of Fulton, Milton, Janesville, Rock and Beloit and the city of Janesville to declare a slow/no wake for their parts of the Rock River.


That presents a problem for the Rock Aqua Jays, who plan to host the national show ski competition at Traxler Park the weekend of Aug. 12-15. Aqua Jays President Joel Shapiro said it’s too early to make any determinations about the event, which draws thousands of people to Janesville.


The Aqua Jays removed their ski jump from the river Friday afternoon because of rising water and asked for an exemption to the slow/no wake restriction. They are awaiting a decision.


Weekend storms could cause more trouble, but Thursday night’s weather did little damage in Rock and Walworth counties.


While Milwaukee and Waukesha counties were hit with 7 to 8 inches of rain, Walworth and Rock averaged a little more than 3 inches, with higher totals in northern Walworth County.


The National Weather Service confirmed one tornado touchdown southwest of Fort Atkinson at 6:15 p.m., but it caused only tree limb damage.


A tornado touched down south of Whitewater at about 8:30 p.m. Thursday. The tornado damaged two barns, downed 50 trees and damaged several fields of corn.


A reported tornado touchdown outside Edgerton on Thursday night has not been verified.


Walworth County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Kevin Williams said emergency management took 77 calls from residents reporting downed trees and power lines, mostly in the northern part of the county after Thursday night’s storms.


Wind damaged two barns in La Grange, knocking one down and taking the roof off another.


The wind also caused power outages throughout the county, including at the county complex, which lost power around 9 p.m.


While power was restored by midnight, the phone systems malfunctioned until late Friday morning.


Rock County dodged the brunt of Thursday’s storms. Connors said most damage was contained to localized flooding Friday morning.


That’s not to say everyone was spared.


Larry B. Miller III, who lives on North River Road, said the combination of heavy rain and sloping land eroded his driveway asphalt and tossed a few inches of sand and gravel into his shed in the backyard.


“It’s amazing what Mother Nature can do,” Miller said, surveying the mound of rocks the water carried down the slope.


The National Weather Service was predicting that scattered thundershowers could drop up to 2.5 inches of rain in south central Wisconsin on Friday night and this morning. Most of the rain was expected to taper off by afternoon today, with a slight chance of thunderstorms tonight.



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