A series of severe storms swept across the state Wednesday, causing flooding, road closures and damage to buildings and power lines, according to an update from the Wisconsin State Emergency Operations Center.
The storms come after a tornado killed one person Tuesday and devastated a trailer park near Chetek, along with other severe weather conditions that hit much of west-central Wisconsin. According to forecasts from the National Weather Service, the Chippewa Valley is in for more rain this weekend.
“We could really use some dry weather,” said Kristina Page, emergency management coordinator at the Jackson County sheriff's office.
Jackson County declared a state of emergency Wednesday due to flooded roads. Page said the Black River appears to have already crested, and the Trempealeau River is receding slowly. Seventeen of the county’s roads are still closed at some points.
The Chippewa River at Eau Claire is expected to rise to near flood stage by Saturday, and additional rainfall could drive that crest higher.
The city reports that the Grand Avenue gauge read 761.85 feet Wednesday morning, which is about 11 feet below the downtown flood stage of 773. By Saturday morning, the crest is projected to be 772.5, a half-foot from the flood stage.
At that reading, water would cover the Chippewa River Trail at the Hobbs Ice Center boat landing and behind Haas Fine Arts Center near the UW-Eau Claire footbridge. Lower areas of Owen Park also would flood, including the tennis courts.
Lower areas of Riverview Drive along the river on the north side of the city also could flood.
In Chippewa Falls, the new Chippewa Riverfront park downtown was substantially underwater Thursday, but city planner Jayson Smith said there is no reason for concern.
“A lot of it is underwater. It happens two to three times a year,” Smith said. “It was designed to withstand this kind of flooding. It’s what we were prepared for.”
The park was built in a flood plain, he said. Over the past decade, the city has purchased buildings on the north bank of the Chippewa River to create the park; those businesses could not do major renovations because of flood-plain regulations.
Officials are urging those who happen upon flooded areas to turn back and pay mind to barricades.