Local flooding persists, but is lower than expected

Despite a few unfortunate occurrences, officials say local rivers are still under the flood stages

More stories from Taylor Hagmann


Photo by Rebecca Mennecke

While some flooding has occurred, and evidence of it is clear on UW-Eau Claire’s upper campus (pictured above), the river levels haven’t yet risen as high as originally feared.

Two or three weeks ago, Tyler Esh, the Emergency Management Coordinator for Eau Claire County, was woken up at three in the morning by an urgent phone call from the Eau Claire Fire Department.

A local resident had water streaming into their basement through broken windows and sand bags were needed immediately. Esh and emergency responders arrived quickly and were able to dig a trench, diverting the water away from the house to a safer area. Unfortunately, the damage was already done: broken windows and a flooded basement.

Jammi Prissel, office manager at Steamatic Restoration and Cleaning said in recent weeks their company responded to several calls about flooded basements and water seepage. One had water all the way up to the rafters and covering the electrical box, adding the risk of electrocution to the field workers.

Major flooding was predicted earlier this spring, due in part to receiving over five feet of snow in February and March. However, despite the above stories and February being the all-time snowiest month on record, Esh claims Eau Claire is about on par with typical spring water levels.

“We’ve been very fortunate that neither (the Chippewa River nor the Eau Claire River) have hit the flood stage,” Esh said. “They’re running a little high, but this has ended up being more consistent with our regular spring melting.”

Esh also said the National Weather Service does predictions one week out, and that for this week, it looks as though the Chippewa River will stay below the flood lines.

“At this point, knock on wood, I think things are looking pretty good for us,” Esh said. “But things can change quickly.”

Steven Thompson, the Street and Fleet Maintenance Manager, said the flooding isn’t as bad as the city thought it would be, but there’s a lot of snow up north that still has to melt, and that could raise the river levels. With spring comes rain, which could also raise the rivers.

Even though Esh said he’s optimistic about the city’s current situation, he does worry about a catastrophic event, like a 100-year flood.

There’s a one out of one-hundred chance that any given area will get a dramatic flood event, and Esh said the last time that happened was in 2016 with the Eau Claire River.

“I’m concerned about a major weather event and how we would respond to that,” Esh said.

While the city had planned a drill for late February to test out the “whole system” and documenting damage, it had to be postponed due to a snow event. Esh said they still plan to run the drill, but is unsure of when it will occur.

Flooding isn’t the only springtime issue locals face as potholes have been causing problems as well.

Prissel recounted how one of the field workers was driving a vehicle for the company, hit a pothole and blew out both of the front tires on the vehicle, causing quite a bit of damage.

Esh said the city is working to fill in potholes, but encouraged people to call and report them to the proper officials so they can be made aware of them.

For potholes outside city limits, the Eau Claire County Highway Department or the DOT can be informed; inside city limits, the Community Services Department Street and Fleet Division deals with the potholes. The Street and Fleet Division even has a twitter page, @cityofecstreets, that readers can follow to report problems or see how repairs are progressing.

Sandbags are available through the city of Eau Claire’s  Emergency Management Division.

Hagmann can be reached at [email protected]