Damages and Impacts (Excerpt from SIR 2008-5235)
The immediate impact of the heavy rainfall on saturated ground on June 7 and 8 was widespread flash flooding. Thousands were evacuated. Tornadoes in Columbia County caused extensive damage. In the early afternoon on June 7, water was reported on Interstate 39 in Columbia County. The second wave of storms on June 12 and 13 caused further road closings on Interstates 94, 90-94, and 39, as well as on 30 State Highways (Stein and Adams, 2008). Transportation became extremely difficult as major arteries between Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Minneapolis were shut down for 1–2 weeks. Interstate 90-94 between Milwaukee and Madison reopened on June 20, and Interstate 39 near the Wisconsin Dells reopened on June 21. Numerous local highways and roads were washed out or flooded and closed. Property damage was extensive. Railroad embankments were washed out or flooded. Airports were closed. About 200 people in Baraboo were rescued from homes and businesses by refurbished World War II amphibious vehicles used by companies that provide tours of the Wisconsin River and nearby areas (Novotny, 2008). Throughout the region, people were sandbagging to protect homes and businesses from rising water. At least 161 communities were forced to divert untreated sewage around their overwhelmed treatment plants (Wisconsin State Journal, 2008). Crop losses alone were estimated to be $300–$400 million (Wisconsin Recovery Task Force, 2008). Along the Crawfish and Rock Rivers, some businesses and industry had to shut down by June 11 and could not reopen for weeks because of extended flooding along these streams that lasted into July (fig. 5). Lake Delton catastrophically drained into the Wisconsin River from a land breach along a narrow area of shoreline between the lake and river on June 9. The land breach of Lake Delton resulted in the immediate loss of entire houses at the breach to the Wisconsin River and caused extended loss of recreational use to riparian businesses and homeowners along the heavily populated lakefront.
By June 20, flood damages were estimated at $470.5 million for businesses, homes, public infrastructure, and agriculture (Stein, 2008). Later assessments estimated the damages to be much higher. A partial list of the costs in the Wisconsin Recovery Task Force Damage report issued in September totaled greater than $1.5 billion (Wisconsin Recovery Task Force, 2008). The Governor of Wisconsin asked the Federal government for additional funding to aid in the cleanup, estimating that $1.2 billion was still needed for housing, business, and infrastructure needs (Associated Press, 2008).