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Heavy storms cause major flooding in Portage, other parts of Columbia County as more storms loom
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Heavy storms cause major flooding in Portage, other parts of Columbia County as more storms loom

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After severe weather Thursday night, Portage and other parts of Columbia County are working to clean up storm damage and flooded areas, while preparing for another potential line of storms Friday evening.

Kathy Johnson, Columbia County emergency management director, said the department remains in contact with the National Weather Service, which originally reported another string of heavy storms Friday evening.

The counties of Columbia, Dane, Sauk, Iowa, Grant, Green and Lafayette in south-central and southwest Wisconsin are under a severe thunderstorm watch until 9 p.m.

“It could be scattered, it’s very hard to predict. We just have to wait and see what happens,” said Johnson.

Thursday’s storms caused flash flooding across many roads in Portage and around the county.

Road closures include: Thompson Street and Wauona Trail in Portage, Blackhawk Road, Township Old River Road in Caledonia, Highway F between Fox River Road and Dumke Road in Fort Winnebago, Wolfram Road in Lewiston, Highway 44 between Crown Road and Barden Road in Marcellon, Vaughn Road from Bird Road to Krueger Road in Randolph, Gibraltar Rock Road in West Point, Schoepp Road South of the driveway to Schoepp’s Cottonwood Resort to Mussen Rd in West Point and Hill Road between Highway 16 and Waters Road in Wyocena.

“We’ve taken precautions on some of the roads that have already been impacted,” said Johnson.

Portage Mayor Rick Dodd said Friday the “normal areas” were hit during the downpour. The railroad underpass flooded and vehicles needed to be rescued from the standing water.

Two police vehicles also stalled in high floodwater and had to be removed with rescue equipment. The city put up barricades as they saw the commonly flooded roadways overtaken by rain, Dodd said, adding that flooding happened at Red Pine Court and East Slifer Street, a consistent occurrence there.

Dodd said the rain gauge outside his home on the north side of the city had accumulated 13.5 inches from 6 to 8 a.m. While he has concerns, the mayor said the spaces where flooding happened were consistent with those of the past and knows city workers are managing it. Some infrastructure is built to withstand large amounts of rain and some isn’t, he said.

“It was just a tremendous amount of rain in a short time,” Dodd said. “It’s one of those storms you hope you never get, but we got it.”

In terms of clean up, the county offers clean up kits which include buckets, mops, sponges and gloves for those who have homes that have flooded. The kits are available for pick-up at the Law Enforcement Center, 711 E Cook St. in Portage, and will be available throughout the weekend, said Johnson.

For residents with well water systems that have flooded, the county offers free water testing kits at the main entrance of the Health and Human Services building in Portage, 111 E Mullet St, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Sauk County Emergency Management Director Jeff Jelinek said Friday that the county fared well compared to its neighboring Columbia County, where he is currently helping family clean up after the storms.

“It’s a mess out here in Swan Lake,” Jelinek said.

Swan Lake is currently the only body of water with a slow no wake order in Columbia County.

There were no reports of major flooding in Sauk County, he said. A call to dispatch around 8 a.m. indicated there were no road closures either. Sauk County received heavy rain that began around 7:30 p.m. The torrential downpour caused large pools along main streets within Baraboo and driver visibility was severely limited.

Jelinek said a bulletin sent around noon from the National Weather Service indicated that there is still a possibility of flash flooding, but new projections indicate that the chance of incoming storms causing safety hazards was diminishing. 

“The concern is that we’ve had a tremendous amount of water and it’s not going to take much to cause flash flooding,” Jelinek said.

Johnson recommends residents that live in low areas move important boxes or items to higher ground to protect against damage if their home begins taking on water. She also recommends that residents are prepared with a “go bag” packed with extra clothes, medication and necessary items in the event they have to leave home due to flooding.

“That’s one of the biggest things, is just be prepared. Get stuff up to the main level, so they don’t have to react if it does flood,” said Johnson. “If they do live in an area where they know they may have to evacuate, have a to go back ready to go so they can grab and go if need be.”

Bridget Cooke contributed to this report

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