Chippewa River recedes after flooding

Matthew Resenhoeft

Despite high levels of the Chippewa River and heavy rainfall earlier this week, city officials remain optimistic that no major flood damage will occur because the water now is receding.

Although Tuesday and Wednesday brought more rain to already soaked land, run-off still did not keep the river level from receding from its high point of 774.4 feet above mean sea level on Monday night. At mid-afternoon on Wednesday, the river was at a height of 768.8 feet.

Due to melting snow last week, the river rose 5 feet to 765.9 on April 6. Over the weekend, melting snow and rain run-off brought the river over the flood stage of 773 before peaking on Monday.

Bruce France, survey supervisor of Eau Claire, said the flooding was due to rainfall run-off and the melting snow from tributaries that empty into the Chippewa River.

So far no serious damage has occurred, but the Chippewa River Trail by the Haas Fine Arts building wound up underwater in spots and remained that way Wednesday afternoon during a driving rain.

France estimated it may be another week-and-a-half until the water recedes and the trail can be reopened. At that time, damage to the area surrounding the trail can be assessed.

“Hopefully, it won’t be anything severe,” France said. “We won’t know that until the water actually goes back down.”

For serious damage to occur, France said, the river likely would need to reach a level of about 775 or 776. At that point, water would begin to back up into the sewer systems and some residents would experience seepage into their basements.

Although the river receded, the rain Wednesday and predicted rain for later in the week could cause the water levels to climb again.

France did not discount the possibility that the river could reach the problem level of 775 or 776 if as much as two or three inches of rain fell.

“It’s always possible depending on what happens with rainfall,” he said. “We could see the river go back up to where it was or higher.”

Students at the university had few complaints about the flooding and rain and did not report any serious problems with the high water marks.

“I’m just hoping it doesn’t flood my dorm,” said freshman Janelle Douville, who lives in Katherine Thomas Hall on lower campus.

Douville said she worried a bit about having to evacuate the dorm like she did earlier this semester when a construction crane collapsed on the nearby McIntyre Library.

Junior Bob Yunker said he experienced some flooding in his rental house during the fall but hasn’t had any problems yet this spring.

If predictions for rain hold true, the river eventually could rise and peak again over the weekend.

For up-to-date information on flooding in the city, residents can call 839-4941 for a pre-recorded message.