MADISON, Wis. — Several days of heavy rains caused flooding that damaged hundreds of homes in southwestern Wisconsin, and officials in some communities were preparing for more flooding as rivers rose.
Storms pounded the southern part of the state early Wednesday but had largely stopped by the afternoon. Dan Baumgardt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in La Crosse, said the state was expected to be mostly dry over the next week but some rivers were still rising with run-off. The water had closed roads, stranded cars and flooded basements.
Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in seven southwestern counties after touring flooding near Boscobel with Wisconsin Emergency Management and local officials. Boscobel had received more than a foot of rain since Friday and sits on the Wisconsin River, which Baumgardt said would likely continue rising for the next two days before stopping just below flood stage.
Walker said he had directed the Wisconsin National Guard and other state agencies to help as necessary, and the state would work with communities to provide emergency assistance funds for eligible homeowners for rehabilitation and get aid for farmers with crop and livestock damage.
"We're still in the process of getting damage reports from all the different counties and seeing if we can make the threshold to ask for federal assistance to get funds to help fix public things like roads and bridges," said Tod Pritchard, a spokesman for Wisconsin Emergency Management.
Pritchard said emergency management officials were concerned about additional flooding given how soaked much of southern Wisconsin was.
"I think this is going to be an ongoing situation," Pritchard said. "Things are receding, a lot of the rivers are going back, but it's not going to take hardly any rain to put us over the threshold again."
Baumgardt said no big storms were in the forecast over the next few days but there could be isolated thunderstorms.
Grant County, which includes Boscobel, reported 640 homes with minor flood damage and 20 with more significant damage, the La Crosse Tribune reported. The county sits in the far southwestern corner of the state and is bordered by the Wisconsin River to the north and the Mississippi River to the west.
The Mississippi River also was rising Wednesday, and the National Weather Service predicted it would surpass flood stage Iowa south to about St. Louis.
The flooding was just the latest round in what has been a cool, wet spring and summer. Crawford County, which is just north of Grant County in western Wisconsin, has already suffered nearly $4 million in flood damage to infrastructure and $340,000 in damage to homes, Roger Martin, the county's emergency management director, told the La Crosse Tribune.
In south-central Wisconsin, along the border with Illinois, the city of Beloit made sandbags available to homeowners who wanted them. Bruce Slagoski, the city's streets supervisor, said requests for sandbags came in after Turtle Creek rose 3 inches in about two hours Wednesday afternoon. The creek was still about a foot below flood stage, he said.
"We just wanted to do some precautionary stuff," Slagoski said.
By midafternoon the weather had turned so nice that Slagoski made a quick stop at a golf course.
"It's beautiful right now," he said by telephone. "They've said scattered showers are possible but really, right now it's just beautiful."