Local, state officials: Rock River flooding could rival 2008's floods

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Neil Johnson
Wednesday, April 17, 2013

JANESVILLE—State and local authorities say they’re bracing for flooding along the Rock River that officials believe could rival flood conditions not seen since spring of 2008.

As waves of heavy rainfall continue to soak the area, and at least three inches are forecast to fall between today and Friday, the swollen Rock River continued to rise today, and officials are expecting the Rock River to reach 12.3 feet or higher at Afton by Friday.

That level of flooding has not been seen since May and June 2008, when the river peaked at 13.5 feet at Afton.

Rock County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jude Maurer and Tod Pritchard, a spokesman for the state’s Emergency Management department say officials are bracing for floods that could bring conditions nearly as severe as 2008’s flooding.

Maurer said indications of that degree of flooding are “preliminary,” but authorities are getting prepared for significant road closures and potential evacuation of homes in low areas along the river.

“The next 48 hours will be interesting,” Maurer said today in a roadside interview with The Gazette.

Maurer was out surveying flooding roadways in low spots along South River Road in Janesville, where the Rock River has topped its banks and is now submerging the road in two spots.

Rock County authorities have placed roadblocks on that road and a slew of roads along Lake Koshkonong in Newville and the towns of Milton and Fulton, where Maurer says river levels have risen to critical levels.

No residents along those areas or on South River Road have been evacuated, sheriff’s officials said, but Maurer Pritchard said evacuation remains a real possibility, and that residents in low spots along the river should monitor the water and make preliminary plans to evacuate if necessary.

Meanwhile, the county and the state Emergency Management officials are coordinating a network of sandbagging stations and readying emergency pumps for use in residential areas that could be hit hardest by flooding.

The Gazette will post the locations of local sandbagging stations on gazettextra.com as soon as they become available.

In Janesville, Interim City Manager Jay Winzenz said the city’s parks and public works departments are preparing to close street accesses to Traxler and Riverside parks, and the city could close some part of North Parker Drive near the Memorial Street Bridge within the next 24 to 48 hours if current rainfall and river level predictions hold true.

Meanwhile, city staff is planning emergency flood meetings Thursday and Friday to discuss the city’s response to the specter of flooding, Winzenz said.

Winzenz said that city workers have started to fill sandbags, and that crews plan to have as many as 12,000 bags ready by Thursday or Friday.

He said the city also plans meetings with downtown businesses along Main Street to discuss how they should proceed if waters top the seawall downtown and overwhelm storm sewer infrastructure the city has tried to bolster in the wake of the 2008 floods.

Karla Simpson, office manager at Brennan Steil law firm at Main and Milwaukee streets, said their three pumps are keeping up. The lower areas of the basement have about 2 inches of water, she said.

“We really don't expect any loss or damage at this point,” she said.

She said the business is appreciatve of the city sand bags that line the outside of their building along the downtown riverwalk, which is a low area on the West side of businesses along Main Street.

For more on this story, read Thursday’s Gazette, The Gazette’s e-edition, or check back at gazettextra.com.

Last updated: 9:21 am Tuesday, July 9, 2013

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