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UPDATE: Residents living along Wisconsin River in Columbia, Sauk counties evacuating homes due to rising floodwater

April 20, 2019 GMT

Some residents of Columbia and Sauk counties who live in the path of the rising Wisconsin River are heeding the advice of local officials and evacuating from flood-prone areas.

Columbia County Sheriff Roger Brandner said residents of the towns of Caledonia and Lewiston – particularly those who live on or near Levee Road/Fairfield Street and the Blackhawk Park area – should find a place to stay out of harm’s way, because near-record flooding is expected to hamper emergency responses in the area.

The river is forecast to rise as high as 20.5 feet over the next few days, and to remain high for several days, Brandner said.

“This is not a time to take chances with your lives and the lives of emergency responders,” he said in a news release.

In Sauk County, emergency management officials recommended Saturday that residents along Levee Road, Plummer’s Grove in the town of Fairfield and Indian Trails near Lake Delton seek alternative housing until further notice due to high water.

Levee Road is closed from Sauk County Highway T through Columbia County.

Jim Fedkenheuer, who lives on Levee Road east of Portage, said Saturday afternoon he and his wife were packing to leave the area. They and their two pets, a dog and a cat, will stay with friends until the water goes down. He said the last time they had to evacuate was years ago.

“This is probably the worst I’ve seen it since I’ve been here,” Fedkenheuer said, adding he’s lived there for roughly 30 years.

Ben Harrison said he doesn’t plan to leave his home on Indian Trail Parkway, which lines the Wisconsin River east of Lake Delton. He said he’s never seen the water get high enough to be a danger in the five years he’s lived there. Harrison estimated it would need to rise another 11 feet to threaten his house.

As of noon Saturday, the river level was at 19.7 feet in Portage, more than 2 feet above the minor flood stage of 17 feet, according to the National Weather Service’s river level monitor, located on the Highway 33 bridge at Portage. By Sunday, the National Weather Service forecasts a river level of 20.1 feet at Portage.

The record level, set in in September 2010, is 20.7 feet.

Sauk County officials said there is no concern for properties below the Prairie du Sac dam.

A century-old berm that runs mostly along private property in both Sauk and Columbia counties, is unstable, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials are monitoring it, as they are unsure how the rising water will affect it.

The evacuation is not mandatory as of Saturday, but strongly recommended.

People who evacuate should take with them their purses or wallets, vital documents, pets and any medications they may need.

Brandner said workers from the Red Cross are in the area, and have pre-planned shelter resources available for those who need it.

Columbia County residents who are displaced are invited to call 608-742-4166, extension 1 to seek assistance if needed. In Sauk County, the contact number for displaced people is 608-963-2585.

Reporter Susan Endres contributed to this report.