Madison issues alert for potential flash flooding; state of emergency declared in 6 counties

August 29, 2018 GMT

Madison issued an alert to warn residents about potential flash flooding with possibly severe storms expected Tuesday evening.

Gov. Scott Walker also declared Tuesday a state of emergency for Fond du Lac, Juneau, La Crosse, Monroe, Vernon and Washington counties in response to heavy rains Monday and Tuesday, adding to a state of emergency declared for Dane County after last week’s deluge.

“Conditions are favorable for urban flash flooding with 2 inches to 3 inches of rain in the next two hours with 1 inch later in the evening,” the alert from the city of Madison said.

Storms Tuesday knocked out power to tens of thousands in Wisconsin, stretching from Sauk County into Fond du Lac County.

The National Weather Service put all of southern and central Wisconsin into the “enhanced” risk category for severe storms on Tuesday morning, a step above the “slight” risk and the first time the region has been at this level during August.


As of 2 p.m., the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma had half of Wisconsin’s 72 counties under a severe thunderstorm watch until 9 p.m. Tuesday, including every county from La Crosse County to Oconto County and all counties to the south of that line.

“The thunderstorms will have the potential of producing winds in excess of 60 mph, large hail and a few short-lived tornadoes,” the Weather Service said.

“Frequent lightning can also be expected, and very heavy rain will occur with any thunderstorms, leading to a risk for flash flooding.”

More bad news? Heat index readings in the mid-90s are accompanying the storms.

The Weather Service has “high confidence” in the potential for widespread thunderstorms throughout southern and central Wisconsin Tuesday.

“Flooding impacts will be closely tied to where the heaviest rainfall occurs,” the Weather Service said. “The risk for flooding will be highest where heavy rain has already fallen over the last week or so.”

That includes just about every locale from the southwest corner of Wisconsin to the Fox River Valley.

The Weather Service also said frequent cloud-to-ground lightning is likely and hail up to the size of half dollars is possible.

In Madison on Tuesday, flood work continued both in protecting property and repairing property.

City crews were working to lay rocks along the Lake Monona shoreline in an attempt to stabilize it. As a result, one inbound lane of John Nolen Drive will be closed during non-peak traffic hours, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., through Friday, so equipment can be staged in the lane closest to the lake.

“Crews will work to maintain a portion of the bike path for pedestrians and bikes, but bicyclists are asked to walk their bikes,” city officials said.


In some good news from the Isthmus, East Washington Avenue on Tuesday had all lanes open in both directions, which took some pressure off the other streets in the Isthmus. But streets could be closed again if the authorities need to drain more water out of Lake Mendota, causing the Yahara River to again flood more of the Isthmus.

The latest street closings can be found on the city’s flooding page at

Several Dane County highways are still closed by floodwaters or damage.

Highway KP from Black Earth west to Highway F has one lane closed.Highway W from Highway B to East Church Road near Utica.Highway 14 in Black Earth, because of bridge washouts.Highway J from Old Military Road to Highway S.Highway G from Highway J to Marsh Lane.

The shutdown of Highway 14 in Black Earth could take a long time to get back to normal.

Two bridges were damaged, one completely washed out, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is recommending both of the bridges be replaced on the east and west sides of Black Earth Creek.

A normal timeline to replace bridges is about three years, considering the time needed for project planning and construction, but Gov. Scott Walker directed DOT to use emergency contracting provisions to get the work done in about three months.

Meanwhile, traffic is detoured to Highway 12 and Highway 78 to get around the Black Earth damage.

On Monday night, severe flooding in western and central parts of the state shut down many highways, according to the state travel map online.

The southbound lanes of Interstate 90/94 near Mauston are closed Tuesday afternoon because of flooding, so traffic is being detoured at New Lisbon, east on Highway 80 to Necedah, then east on Highway 21 to Coloma and south on Interstate 39 to Portage.

In Vernon County, Highways 14/61, 162, 33, 131, 35, 80, 82 and 5 have sections closed by high water, debris or mudslides; in Monroe County, Highways 27, 33 and 131 have sections closed by high water; in Juneau County, Highways 12, 33, 58 and 80 have sections closed by high water; and in Sauk County, highway 33 is closed from Wonewoc to Highway 58 because pavement has washed out.

In Crawford County, a flood warning has been issued for the Soldiers Grove area, because two dams on the Kickapoo River have breached in Vernon County, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Record flooding is expected on the Kickapoo River at LaFarge, Viola and Readstown, according to the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service of the Weather Service.

Columbia County Emergency Management officials announced Tuesday that the Wisconsin River is expected to reach minor flood stage by Thursday, so free sandbags and sand is available to the public at the Highway Department shop on Old Highway 16 in Wyocena.

“People living in low-lying areas along the Wisconsin River are encouraged to take appropriate actions and to monitor river levels for any changes,” said Emergency Management Coordinator Kathy Johnson.

Sandbags are also readily available in Madison, Monona and Middleton, and Sauk County is also providing sandbags at the West Baraboo highway garage and in Reedsburg.

And, with the long Labor Day weekend coming up, Wisconsin Emergency Management is urging travelers to expect the unexpected.

“Planning ahead is key,” said Administrator Brian Satula. “The recent flooding has caused road closures, and the holiday weekend can mean extra traffic on roads and highways.”

Satula said plan on taking extra time to reach your destination, and pay attention to travel conditions and weather conditions.

Dane County Lakes staff has been working “around the clock” to mitigate flooding on the Yahara chain of lakes before the next round of heavy rain comes later on Tuesday.

“With an additional 1 to 2 inches of rain expected in the next 12 hours, Dane County has continued to cut weeds and remove debris from the lakes,” said spokeswoman Stephanie Miller.

Lake levels remained the same overnight, except for Lake Monona declining by a half-inch.

“Given the uncertainty in the forecast, Dane County urges residents to be vigilant and to monitor the weather and street closings before traveling,” Miller said.