Flooding in Eau Claire is starting to recede

Published: Apr. 19, 2023 at 6:39 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Chippewa River in Eau Claire has been anywhere from 10 to 15 feet above it’s normal elevation the past week. This has caused flooding in areas like Phoenix Park, Owen Park, and along the Chippewa River Trails.

According to Sean Hartnett, professor emeritus of geography at UW-Eau Claire, this flood is one of the top ten floods in Eau Claire ever recorded.

“Today the river is receding a little bit. It’s dropped down to just under an elevation of 770 feet. We peaked up at 775.5 feet, which puts us pretty high on the chart. The ninth highest flood level,” Hartnett said.

The Chippewa River crested on Friday and is now slowly regressing back into normal levels.

“It’s a spring meltwater flood. These tend to be long sustained floods that that build up in the in the springtime and take a while to settle back down,” Hartnett said.

Even with the flood settling down, Hartnett advises staying off the river

“The Grand Avenue Bridge, you see, the river is fully contained under the bridge. At our peak level, 66,000 cubic feet of water went under this bridge per second. So you can imagine 60,000 gallons of water going under that bridge,” Hartnett said.

Hartnett recalled the third highest flood in Eau Claire, almost 30 years ago.

“Number three on the charts was 1993 flood and it was a couple of feet higher and that came in in June. Historically, the most significant flooding was up on the north side, in the North Barstow neighborhood up there. In fact, you can see there’s whole blocks of houses that were moved out,” Hartnett said.

He says Eau Claire no longer sees major residential flooding because river banks are higher now and bedrock helps keep the flood waters contained.

You can see the latest reading of the Chippewa River elevation from the National Weather service here. The upcoming rainfall is expected to raise the river elevation by one or two feet.