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Monday, September 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 45.0° F  Fair
The Daily
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Madison water levels continue to rise after latest storms
The Tenney Locks work overtime.
Credit:David Medaris

As local watersheds continue to drain the recent storm waters into the area's lakes and rivers, water levels appear to be reacting in dramatic fashion. During a walk along the Yahara River Parkway, levels were visibly higher than they were before the latest rains on Thursday. In some places, the water has come up over shoreline embankments. In others, it is threatening to do so.

The scale of this localized flooding falls well short of the catastrophic occurrences elsewhere in the region. The Lake Delton disaster was of a scale that has drawn national attention.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Friday announced the closure of Devil's Lake, Rocky Arbor and Wildcat Mountain state parks due to flood damage. It also announced the closure of the Elroy-Sparta and 400 state trails, and urged the public to exercise caution on other state trails.

Closer to home, Lake Mendota appeared to be a few inches shy of cresting over the jetty at Tenney Park, and was lapping at the shoreline to the west.

At the nearby Tenney Lock and Dam, water was being vented out of Lake Mendota downstream via the Yahara River at the impressive rate of about 600 cubic feet per second -- a number that, if it is abstract, produced a roiling, ominous-looking current of deep, dark water.

The US Geological Survey gauge at East Main Street had climbed to a height reading of eight feet at about the time of my walking tour of the parkway. This was reflected further downstream at the East Washington Avenue bridge, where the Yahara River was encroaching on the pedestrian-bicycle underpass.

At places all along the parkway, the Yahara River had climbed up over the embankment and spread out onto the lawn, turning some trees and bushes into islands. At Yahara Place Park, where the river empties into Lake Monona, it had encircled the boat signal at the park's southwest corner. Karen Matteoni of the Friends of the Yahara River Parkway was working to protect the roses planted by the friends only the week before, as the water rose toward them.

Matteoni then proceeded to explain what the large hose and pump had been set up to accomplish, and what the friends were trying to accomplish with their restoration of an adjacent historic landscape.

Higher waters to the north and east of the region, meanwhile, continue to affect the region through ongoing road closures. Interstate 90/94/39 between Exit 92 near Lake Delton to Hwy 151 in Madison were closed in both directions on Friday, with interstate traffic rerouted along the Beltline and Highway 12. "Motorists who don't need to travel on the interstate system or Beltline are being asked not to do so," declared the Dane County Department of Emergency Management on Friday. "Motorists who do use these routes can expect lengthy delays."

More information about the record rainfall and river flooding around southern Wisconsin is detailed here by the National Weather Service, along with a listing of the 48-hour and monthly precipitation records set in the last week. There is a chance for more showers and thunderstorms through the weekend.

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