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Hydrologists monitor water levels as snowy and rainy weather continues

Old 8 Road near Rhinelander is blocked off due to high water levels on the Pelican River.
Katie Thoresen
Old 8 Road near Rhinelander is blocked off due to high water levels on the Pelican River.

This week’s forecast won’t do much to help flood conditions in the region.

Governor Evers declared a state of emergency in Wisconsin this week because of flooding throughout the state.

“It’s definitely one of the more unique springs,” said USGS Hydrologic Technician Ryan Jirik.

He says he’s just about seen it all in the 20 years he’s worked in the field.

“We’ve had some big snow melts before, but to have it all or lot of it all melted off in a three-day, four-day period is kind of something I’ve never seen,” said Jirik.

As a result, many rivers are at or near flood stage.

Jirik says one of the big factors in the rising water levels was how wet and heavy the recent snowfalls have been.

“There was a lot of water equivalent in the snowpack that we had. A lot of areas had like 8 to 12 inches of water in that snowpack,” he said.

The other issue is that swamps are now filling up and there’s not enough vegetation to soak up the water.

Jirik says streamflow’s in the region are at the 90th percentile right now.

With more rain in the forecast, Jirik urges people to be cautious.

“Be vigilant around rivers this time of year, especially flood conditions, not knowing if a road or culvert is washed out,” said Jirik.

The National Weather Service Green Bay forecast is calling for half an inch to an inch of rain across the region between Wednesday night and Friday morning.

Any thunderstorms today bring locally higher amounts of rain.

“If we get an inch of rain on Thursday, there’s no telling what might happen to some of the rivers. Some of the storms might be localized. But like I said, just be vigilant,” said Jirik.

The National Weather Service says river forecasts show levels remaining fairly steady over the next few days, or falling slightly. However, locally higher precipitation amounts from thunderstorms could result in minor changes.

You can view river forecasts on NOAA’s website. You can also see current streamflow conditions on the USGS website.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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