UPDATE (WKOW) — A main bridge connecting the north and south side of Darlington has been reopened.
Authorities said barricades were moved at 4:30 a.m. and drivers can now cross the bridge.
They warn motorists should continue to take it slow because water is still on Main Street.
DARLINGTON (WKOW) — After heavy October rains for the second time this year, the police department closed the Highway 23 bridge on Darlington’s Main Street.
An engorged Pecatonica River effectively cut the town in two. On Darlington’s north side is downtown, while the school sits on the south.
According to Tom Jean, the Lafayette County highway commissioner, closing the bridge is such an inconvenience, the city only closes it when the river reaches 15 feet, making travel unsafe.
“A lot of people have to work,” he said. “They live on one side of the bridge, work directly on the other side. That can add as much as an hour one way.”
The last time they closed the bridge was after a quick thaw in February, but Jean said this kind of weather in October is almost unheard of.
“This time of year we usually look at as our dry time of year and it just didn’t happen this year,” he said.
Jean said the Pecatonica River appeared to crest at 8 a.m. at roughly 15.5 feet, flooding the banks and saturating the ground around it.
That forced Darlington schools to close for the day on Wednesday. According to the superintendent, they’re taking it day by day, checking the river and road closures to determine when it will be safe to reopen.
For those who lived near the banks, the rising water was more than an inconvenience.
TJ Nyffengger spent Wednesday pumping water out of a few homes.
“My grandma called me and said she had some water in her basement,” he said. “She didn’t tell me she had a swimming pool.”
In about eight inches of water, Nyffenegger was up to his shins, trying to bail out water faster than it was coming in.
“These pumps can only keep up so much. It goes outside the building and it’s more than likely coming right back in because everything is just swamped. It’s so water logged,” he said.
As for the rest of town, Jean said the city needs the water to recede before the next batch of storms come through.
“With as much water as is downstream right now, another couple inches of rain here or there will bring that water level right back up to flooding situations again,” he said. “We can only hope for minor rainfalls and give this water a chance to dissipate.”