Chippewa River well below flood stage as snow melts

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - As the snow continues to melt, congress is looking to ease the pain felt by those in danger of flooding.

Heavy snowfall and frozen ground increase the risk for flooding in Eau Claire, but without any major warm ups or storms in the forecast; experts say we're not in danger yet.

Chris Kelly of Eau Claire said he's seen issues with melting near his first avenue home before.

“Just completely covered in water, up over the sidewalks (last year),” he said.

It hasn't happened yet this year.

“The last few days, it feels like a drastic change, but I don't think it's going to be quite enough to where we'll be in any potential danger,” Kelly said.

“If we continue to have a slow warm up, with some freezing at night, I think that will help keep the flooding at bay, but i think a lot of people are worried if we do get a rainfall, on top of frozen ground, that could lead to some localized flooding,” Eau Claire County land use supervisor Rod Eslinger said.

The Chippewa River is still more than twelve feet below flood stage, he said. But heat and heavy rain could change that quickly, putting low-lying homes at risk of water seeping in.

“If you have property in those areas, you want to move stuff to higher grounds,” Eslinger said.

He said many of the properties in Eau Claire that were at risk were bought and torn down in the 1990s.

There are 71 flood insurance policies in place in the county, some that have seen major increases in recent years, he said.

“It can be pretty drastic. Going from a few hundred dollar a year policy, to a couple thousand a year dollar policy, so that can have significant impacts for those property owners and just their daily way of life. That would be a burden on them to have that.

A bill in Washington that could lower those spikes and keep rates the same for buyers passed through the house last week.

“For them to balance that out and make it affordable for people to where in case something does happen, they need it, I think that's great,” Kelly said.

A new study done by the county in the Lowe's Creek area, measured elevation levels which could help lower flood insurance rates for property owners there, Eslinger said.