Waters were beginning to recede Friday morning in southern Wisconsin communities hit when fast-melting snow caused rivers and streams to run their banks. 

Gov. Tony Evers declared a state of emergency Friday as some residents began cleaning up damage while others braced against flood crests to come. 

In the Columbia County city of Lodi, Mayor Jim Ness said Spring Creek dropped at least three feet since cresting late Thursday night.

“We’re much better today,” Ness said. “There’s water all over, but it’s going down.”

Ness said the municipal utility was restoring gas and electricity service Friday morning to businesses and about half a dozen homes on Main Street but did not know the extent of damages.

Ness said the flood hit quickly.

“We had no indication it was coming,” Ness said. “I’ve lived here 71 years and I’ve never seen it like that.”

But Columbia County Emergency Management officials reported more than 100 areas with water over roadways and warn of ongoing flood risks as rivers continue to rise.

The Baraboo River crested just below major flood stage overnight in Rock Springs and is expected to come within about a foot of moderate flooding Sunday in Baraboo, according to the National Weather Service.

Minor to moderate flooding is likely Sunday through Wednesday on the Wisconsin River in Portage.

Flooding in DeForest

The flooded intersection of North Stevenson and East North Streets in the city of DeForest, Wis. remains closed to traffic Friday, March 15, 2019 after high levels of the nearby Yahara River encroached on the roadways and a number of adjacent properties. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL

“We have lots of small emergencies across the state,” said Lori Getter, spokeswoman for Wisconsin Emergency Management. “From La Crosse to Manitowoc.”

Getter said there has been water in places that don’t traditionally flood.

“You don’t have to be near a creek or a river to be flooded,” she said. “There isn’t any place for that water to go.”

About a dozen residents who left their homes overnight in DeForest were able to return Friday morning as utility services were restored.

Flooding in DeForest

After rising waters of the Yahara River in DeForest, Wis. closed city streets and forced the evacuation of some residents, Max Sesing and his children Drake, 4, and Evie, 3, view the flooded intersection of North Stevenson and East North Streets in the city Friday, March 15, 2019. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL

“We have not seen it get worse,” said Kelli Bialkowski, director of public services. “We’re feeling encouraged.”

The Pecatonica River crested Thursday night at more than 4 feet above flood stage in the Lafayette County city of Darlington, according to the National Weather Service, which is forecasting it will remain in flood stage through Sunday.

“Each hour another business owner is able to access their business again,” said a post on the Darlington Police Department’s Facebook page. “Most of the businesses fared well, thanks to the flood mitigation efforts through the years, but some of the businesses did not have shields and are a mess this morning."

Darlington mayor David Breunig said no residences were affected.

The Pecatonica is expected to hit a near-record crest Saturday in the community of Martintown along the Illinois border in Green County.

The National Weather Service extended the flood warning to 3:45 a.m. Saturday for 15 counties in south-central Wisconsin, including Dane County, because of the widespread flooding caused by the snowmelt, rain, frozen ground and ice jams on streams.

The hardest-hit areas include DeForest and Mazomanie in Dane County, Lodi in Columbia County, Prairie du Sac in Sauk County, Darlington and Fond du Lac.

In far western Wisconsin the Kickapoo River has crested in Ontario but may continue rising for another day or two in downstream communities.

Nicole Batzek, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in La Crosse, said the upper layers of ground are saturated and can’t absorb any additional snowmelt.

“Deep down into the soil it’s still frozen,” she said.

But moderate temperatures and sunshine should help this weekend.

“We’re not expecting any additional accumulating precipitation in the next two days, which is helpful,” Batzek said.

While the situation is improving in the short term, Getter warns that there could still be problems to come.

“There’s a lot of snow up north,” she said. “All that snow’s eventually going to come down(stream) as water.”

Politics Email signup

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Data journalist for the Wisconsin State Journal. Covers energy and transportation, among other things. Rhymes with Lubbock. Contact him at 608-252-6146.