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Columbia County braces for highest water since 2010

COLUMBIA COUNTY (WKOW) — Columbia County Emergency Management is closely watching the Wisconsin River near Portage as the water is expected to rise close to a record level.

On Thursday morning, Columbia County officials were expecting water to reach 19.6 ft, still major flood stage but a smaller threat. By the afternoon, the National Weather Service prediction increased to 20.4 ft, just three inches shy of the 2010 record.

As the water hit minor flood stage Thursday afternoon, the high water was already causing problems for the low-lying Blackhawk Park neighborhood.

Jim Adamski said he’s lived there for five years.

“It’s beautiful when it’s not flooded,” he said.

When the water rises, Adamski has a plan. He puts on his boots, makes sure his boat is in place and then he finds a way to get home.

“Get in the boat, row down ’til it gets deep enough start the motor and cruise over to my house,” he said.

During smaller floods, Adamski said it’s an inconvenience but if the water rises to the point the county expects, he said he and his neighbors will have bigger problems.

“At 20.4, it’s in all these houses,” he said.

When the river reached 20.7 ft. back in 2010, parts of the Blackhawk Park neighborhood had to be evacuated.

This time, Adamski expects at least four inches of water in his home. He said he doesn’t have flood insurance.

“No I can’t afford that,” he said. “You just, fix it up again.”

In his neighborhood, Columbia County Emergency Management has already closed a number of roads and around Portage they’re preparing for more closures. Officials plan to start sandbagging Friday morning.

As for Adamski, he said he and his neighbors have accepted their fate.

“Everybody that lives all in here isn’t going to be able to get out,” he said.

For Adamski, it’s been a growing frustration. He said it’s already been the third time this year he’s had to break out the boat to get to his home, the last time just a month ago.

He’s hoping the county, along with communities upstream, can find a more permanent solution before the water rises again. He suggests managing the dams so water only gets up to 19 ft.

“I would think, you know they could do something,” he said.

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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