Flooding in the Kickapoo River Drainage Basin and Southwestern Wisconsin Thesis

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Southwestern Wisconsin: Flooding Due to Natural and Human-Created Vulnerabilities

The areas of Southwestern Wisconsin located near the Kickapoo River saw record flood totals in June of 2008. The immediate cause of the flood was a series of storms in which seven southern counties received more than a foot of rainfall during the first half of the month. Precipitation records were set 114 times in Wisconsin cities and towns, day after consecutive day. Unlike the 2007 floods, the 2008 floods were due to unusually consistent and seemingly never-ending rainfall amounts. In two of the most severely impacted cities, the town of Ontario received more the 6 inches on June 8th, and the town of Baraboo received more than 17 inches of rainfall during the month ("Floods in Wisconsin," the Wisconsin Historical Society, 2009).

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Dams, rivers, and streams, and nearly every residential and commercial area was affected: "Lake Delton, located in the Wisconsin Dells in south central Wisconsin, breached its dam and emptied into the nearby Wisconsin River on the 9th, sweeping away three homes and part of a highway. Thirty-one Wisconsin counties were declared disaster areas, more than 40,000 homes and 5,000 businesses were damaged; state officials estimated the total damage at more than $1.2 billion" ("Floods in Wisconsin," the Wisconsin Historical Society, 2009). The causes of the 2008 flooding were attributed by the Wisconsin Department of Military affairs to the 2007 winter's record-breaking snowfalls which never had time to be absorbed by the ground. "Following the summer's heavy rains, water levels in some wells in southern Wisconsin were nearly 10 feet above their historic highs" ("Effects of climate change in Wisconsin: Flooding in the south, drought in the north," Wisconsin Geologic History and Natural Survey, 2009). The same region of the state had already been hard-hit in 2007: that year, heavy thunderstorms dumped 10 inches of rain from Iowa to Wisconsin. "Significant flash flooding developed during the overnight hours in drainage areas. Mud and rock slides were also common given the steep terrain in that area" ("Flash Flooding along Iowa - Wisconsin border," CRH, 2007).

Thesis on Flooding in the Kickapoo River Drainage Basin and Southwestern Wisconsin Assignment

However, an alternative analysis has been offered for the severity of flooding, beyond that of the impact of the heavy rain. True, the rainfall activity was catastrophically intense during June. But according to the Wisconsin Geologic History and Natural Survey, even earlier floodwaters had remained high for months. Southwest Wisconsin had undergone notable geological changes that left the underground water table virtually level. "When the rising water table reaches the land surface, groundwater flooding occurs," as before floodwaters can dissipate, the underground layer of rock that holds water must lower ("Effects of climate change in Wisconsin: Flooding in the south, drought in the north," Wisconsin Geologic History and Natural Survey, 2009). "The amount of rise in the water table depends on many factors, including the amount of precipitation, soil type, plant type, temperature, and porosity of the underlying aquifer" ("Effects of climate change in Wisconsin: Flooding in the south, drought in the north," Wisconsin Geologic History and Natural Survey, 2009). The combination of more severe storms due to climate change combined with higher water table, river, and stream levels, also due to climate change, means that groundwater flooding is likely to become more common than in the past, in an area that has always had a great deal of flooding.

Historically, floods have always been part of Wisconsin life. French-Canadian residents of Prairie du Chien complained as early as 1785 of the flooding. Another historic flood occurred on September 11, 1884 when a 27-foot flood carried away houses and all the bridges in Eau Claire. At the beginning of the 20th century, heavy rains filled the upstream tributaries to the Black River and caused two dams above Black River Falls to give way and allow the waters to destroy 85% of the business district ("Floods in Wisconsin," the Wisconsin Historical Society, 2009). Large dams have thus proved ineffective historically yet smaller dams, such as check dams are only effective in narrow areas, such as channels that drain areas smaller than 10 acres. Check dams also require additional maintenance for high-velocity flows ("Check dams," CASH, 2009).

Kickapoo Valley was hard-hit by flooding in 1951: "When more than 8 inches… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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