Nature April 24, 2019
More Flooding Is Expected Across Wisconsin This Spring And Here’s What You Need To Know
One sure sign of spring in Wisconsin happens when flood watches and warnings pick up across the state. April showers combine with snowmelt runoff to create some scary situations along Wisconsin’s rivers and this year looks like it will be worst than most. With areas of the state breaking records for snowfall in January and February, there’s significantly more melting snow than we’re used to. Plus, late snows have slowed some of the melting process. Now the spring storms have started and our awesomely irregular weather means it’s a dangerous time in the state and folks should be prepared.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
Since it snowed a week ago, I feel comfortable saying spring has barely sprung here in Wisconsin. Thunderstorm season has barely arrived and Wisconsin's rivers are already being tested. The Wisconsin, Fox, Trempealeau, Black, Oconto, Yellow and Mississippi rivers all currently have or are forecasted to have flooding. An early warm stretch in March already precipitated some of these issues and rivers all along the state were at record highs. Some of that has ebbed, but that doesn't mean the danger has passed.
The Wisconsin River crested at Portage this week and a levee in the area is in danger of giving way. More than a dozen counties in central Wisconsin are on a flood watch after Monday's storms rolled through. Each and every new drop of rain could be the one to send the whole fragile system over its limit. Storms pop up quickly this time of year and we're only going to get more. Record snowfalls of more than five feet of accumulation in a month hit much of the state. That snow doesn't just disappear. It melts, raising the groundwater table and overwhelming state lakes and rivers.
Not only do those living in floodplains need to worry, but those of us who head outdoors have to be careful. We're all itching to get out and enjoy the warm weather that finally seems to have arrived, but many state and city parks are susceptible to flooding and visitors can be caught unawares. According to the CDC, "Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than any other hazard related to thunderstorms. The most common flood deaths occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous floodwater."
There's a threat of water contamination during flooding. Folks need to be careful not use any of the water in the house and listen to their local authorities for things like boil advisories. Generators present their own hazards and you should be careful about carbon monoxide when using them - make sure everything is well-ventilated.
The winter melt can create some of the most gorgeous times at the state's many waterfalls, but all that very swiftly moving water should also remind you how dangerous it can be. Floods can cause currents where you weren't expecting them. You never know how deep a puddle or flood area is and it is easy to lose your footing.
Respecting the power of Mother Nature is so very important during the spring melt. We're excited to be outside, but we still have to make smart decisions. There's a National Weather Service bureau in Green Bay that is constantly updating their weather information and the Department of Natural Resources is always monitoring situations. Heed their warnings. Know that many state areas will be closed or have limited access because of flood waters. Always check with the DNR before heading out to get the most up-to-date information.
High waters can hide all kinds of dangers that would otherwise normally be visible. Rocks, fallen trees, potholes and more can be difficult to see and you never know how deep the water really is. Don't drive into the waters and risk getting stuck - turn around and get back to safety. Wading through waters exposes you to all kinds of dangers, as well. Be smart and stay safe when it comes to flooding.
The warmer weather and draw of gorgeous waterfalls or river fishing can be difficult to resist, but those who choose to try to take advantage of what this snowmelt and thunderstorm season can bring are taking a risk. Be safe, be smart and respect the power of Mother Nature. Flooding has affected most of the state and the threat will only continue to grow. Listen for evacuation orders, stay out of the water, and take care of yourself and your family during this dangerous time of year.
What tips do you have about safely navigating a particularly flood-prone spring in Wisconsin this year? Let us know about them in the comments!
Shelving hiking for the time being might be the best course of action, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get out and enjoy the beauty of spring.
Check out these colorful spots all around Wisconsin that are particularly gorgeous in spring.