Emergency management officials are preparing for possible flooding along the Wolf River in New London and Fremont.
In a webcast Friday, March 25, the National Weather Service indicated that there was more than a 50 percent probability of flooding along the Wolf River.
Last week, the gauge measuring the river’s water level reached nearly 8 feet. At 9 feet, minor flooding can be expected in New London, according to Andy Carlin, the director of Waupaca County Emergency Management.
“If it reaches 9 feet, you can expect some flooding in Pfeifer Park,” Carlin said. “In the Fremont area, some docks might go under water near Gills Landing.”
If the water level in New London reaches 10 feet, basements in homes along the river may be flooded. At 12 feet, the water reaches the top of the retaining wall in New London and residents can expect major flooding in the city.
“The Wolf River handles minor flooding very well,” Carlin said. “But, there’s a better than 50 percent chance that there could be flooding between the end of March and the beginning of May.”
Steve Buan, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service, noted in Friday’s webcast that the March 23 snowfall added more than 1 inch of water to an existing snowpack that already contains the equivalent of 3 inches of water. At the same time, temperatures in central Wisconsin dropped to below freezing.
How quickly the snow melts will affect the likelihood of spring flooding along the Wolf River.
Buan noted that river levels reach two peaks this time of year. The first peak occurs as the snow melts. The second peak occurs as a result of spring rains.
“Every day we put off this melt, we increase the likelihood of the melt occurring rapidly and at the same as the spring rains,” Buan said, noting that if the final melt occurs simultaneously as the spring rains, the chance of flooding rises.
Carlin stressed that while the probability of the Wolf River reaching 9 feet was over 50 percent, the probability of it reaching 10 feet was under 20 percent.
However, he said residents should be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
“Families need to have a plan,” Carlin said. “If you’re not together when a flood comes, it’s important to know how you will communicate with each other. If you’re evacuated, you need a place for your family to meet up.”
Carlin recommend that residents who live in low-level areas or near rivers should go to http://readywisconsin.wi.gov where they can find information on how to prepare for a flood.
The website provides a list of items to have on hand so a family is ready for emergencies. The list includes having one gallon of water per person per day for up to three days, enough nonperishable food for three days, flashlights and batteries, sleeping bags or blankets, a complete change of clothing, a first-aid kit and other items.
Carlin said a family’s first step should be finding out whether they live in a flood-prone area.
Waupaca County residents can see flood maps by going to http://public1.co.waupaca.wi.us/FlexPub/index.html.
“It’s not real apparent at first glance how to view a flood zone layer. Look in the upper right corner of site in the map contents panel and check the box for FEMA Flood Maps (DFIRM),” said Ian Grasshoff, an analyst with the Waupaca County Land Information office.
Carlin said residents should also prepare financially by making sure their homes are covered by flood insurance.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency less than 1 percent of Wisconsin households are covered by a flood insurance policy.
In the summer of 2010, severe flooding throughout Wisconsin led to nearly $28 million in total flood insured losses.