Wisconsin River crests, weakened levee prompts evacuation

PORTGE (WKOW) — The Wisconsin River is finally starting to drop after it crested Sunday afternoon, but the flowing river eroded away part of the Caledonia levee, prompting more people to leave their homes.

DNR wardens discovered it as they were monitoring expected seepage.

Sheriff’s deputies began enforcing the closure of an 8-mile stretch of Levee Road which was already closed.

Officials had already suggested people who live along Levee Road, should leave.

They were again urged to evacuate late Sunday, since emergency services would be unable to reach them.

Columbia County officials say everyone who was asked to leave, complied.

It’s near record-breaking levels of flooding, coming from melting snow-pack in northern Wisconsin.

The river didn’t beat the historic 20.7 feet set back in 2010, but it did get high enough for the Department of Natural Resources to be concerned about the levees that keep the water at bay.

“It’s just 24 hours a day monitoring them to make sure they’re holding and that everything looks good and they are holding,” Ed Culhane with the DNR said.

Since they’re essentially sand mounds made back in the 1930s, Culhane said some seepage is to be expected.

However that seepage got so bad, one part of the levee eroded leading to a hard closure of an eight-mile stretch of Levee Road and evacuations.

“Obviously some homes have been affected and some people have been evacuated so folks will be facing some issues with that,” Culhane said.

There was also a man made berm that officials erected Saturday that had been breached.

Portage Police says nearby homeowners filled up the gaps with sandbags until first responders could come and repair it.

Even on Friday, when the water was two feet lower, homes in the Blackhawk area were already inaccessible by car as the water crept up.

Culhane said he didn’t know exactly how many people were evacuated but one woman was seeking help at the Red Cross shelter in Portage.

“I think she’s doing pretty well,” Burlie Williams, a Red Cross Volunteer in charge of the shelter, said. “We are working on a recovery plan with her, working with other agencies and organizations.”

“If you do find that you need a place to go, please come to the shelter cause we’re here for you,” Williams said.

That shelter, for those who need it, is at the Portage United Methodist Church at 1804 Pinery Road.

If you need any other form of assistance you can contact officials in your county.

In Sauk County you can call 608-963-2585 and in Columbia County that number is 608-742-4166 Ext. 1.

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