Officials, businesses keeping a watchful eye on river, forecast
Jackie Wood was on high alert Thursday, having just returned home from checking for water inside the Olde Towne Mall she owns in downtown Janesville.
She'd found none, although she did hear water running in an old elevator shaft.
Wood's downtown property has seen its share of flooding over the years, and she hopes it will escape water damage from recent rounds of heavy rains that have the nearby Rock River approaching moderate flood stage.
The Brennan Steil law firm just to the north had two pumps running Thursday afternoon.
"We're probably going to add a third," George Steil said. "The two pumps we've got are keeping up for now, and we haven't had any significant amount of water."
City of Janesville crews finished sandbagging a section of the river wall that runs behind the law firm from the Milwaukee Street bridge to Fireman's Park.
"We respond to the forecast," said John Whitcomb, the city's operations director. "When the forecast starts creeping toward that 11-foot mark, we get a little nervous.
"That's the lowest point of the wall."
The river hit 10.49 feet at the Afton gauge on Thursday. That's 6 inches higher than it was Wednesday.
At Afton, the river is expected to rise through early Monday, when it will crest at 11.8 feet and stay there until it starts receding midweek, according to the National Weather Service.
Minor flood stage is 9 feet, while the service categorizes moderate flooding at 11.1 feet, a level it predicts the river will reach about noon today.
At the Lake Koshkonong gauge, Thursday's observation showed a level of 10.31 feet, just above its flood stage of 10 feet. Water levels at the lake are expected to top out at 11.5 feet Sunday afternoon.
As is usual when the water runs high, Janesville's Mole-Sadler area on the west bank of the river is flooded, Whitcomb said. Water is over the former Johnson Street, an area that now includes the Ice Age Trail.
"There are a few other park-related issues," he said in reference to Riverside Park, where the north end is closed.
Sandbags are available to homeowners through their respective city or town, said Sgt. Shena Kohler, emergency management director at the Rock County Sheriff's Office.
"People need to understand that the sandbags will be available based on the need and the level of emergency," she said. "We've had some odd requests, and some of them are somewhat valid but not to the point of an emergency."
Sandbags, she said, will not be issued because a sump pump has failed. Nor will they be available to provide weight for the backs of pickup trucks.
"It's for flooding only," she said, noting that city and town governments track sandbag dispersal to document potential damages for state and federal governments.
Kohler's office has not reported any significant problems because of flooding, but she does urge caution.
"Don't drive through high water and certainly avoid any recreational activities in it for health and safety reasons," she said.
Kohler said residents should call 608-757-2244 to report high water problems or roads that are impassable.
The downpours of earlier this week should be gone for the time being.
For the most part, the National Weather Service predicts only light rain in Rock County through Wednesday. The exceptions, it said, are possible thunderstorms on Sunday and Wednesday.
Flood warnings continue on all area rivers, and it should come as little surprise that the U.S. Drought Monitor declared earlier this week that the drought of 2012 is officially over for most of southern Wisconsin.
Some sections of western Wisconsin, however, are still said to be abnormally dry.