National Weather Service
National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Flooding in Wisconsin

On this page you learn what types of flooding are typical in Wisconsin and how do you protect yourself, your family and your home. You will also find out more about significant Wisconsin floods. Finally, you'll find links to NWS offices that provide forecast and safety information for Wisconsin as well as links to our partners who play a significant role in keeping you safe.

Flooding Navigation bar, hover for links Flood Safety Home Page Turn Around Don't Drown Interactive Flood Map Types of flodding and associated risks NWS flood products forecasts and observations (AHPS) flood safety education and outreach partner agencies National Water Center Flooding in Rock Springs, WI

Significant Wisconsin Floods
  • Southern Wisconsin, 2008

    During the first half of June 2008, seven southern counties received more than a foot of rainfall, setting daily precipitation records in 114 Wisconsin cities and towns. The town of Ontario received more the 6 inches on June 8, and Baraboo more than 17 inches during the month. Unfortunately, record snowfalls the previous winter had left historic high streamflows across much of the state. The combination led to flooding of historic proportions in the watersheds of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers.

    Lake Delton, in the Wisconsin Dells, breached its dam and emptied into the nearby Wisconsin River on the 9th, sweeping away three homes and part of a highway. The government declared 31 counties 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.


    Flood waters surrounding Rock Springs LARC river station.

    Flooding in Rock Springs, WI
    Flooding in Rock Springs, WI

    (U.S. Geological Survey. "Flooding in the Midwest, June 2008" and "Record Rains during the First Half of June 2008"; Capital Times, Dec. 3, 2008; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sept. 18, 2008).



  • Statewide Flooding, 1993

    An unusually snowy winter was followed by two to three times the normal rainfall between January and July: 20-40 inches, in many places in the Upper Mississippi Valley. When 2 to 7 inches of rain fell on June 17-18, every major river in Wisconsin flooded; 20 dams were overtopped, broken, or washed away. Crop and soil damage in Wisconsin topped $800 million, residential damage totaled $46 million, and business losses were estimated at $31 million. The federal government declared 46 of the state's 72 counties disaster areas. (Wis. DNR, Bureau of Water Regulation & Zoning. The Floods of 1993: The Wisconsin Experience (Madison, Dec. 1993).



  • Chippewa Valley, 1884

    On September 11, 1884, a 27-foot flood carried away houses and all the bridges in Eau Claire. The total loss in the Eau Claire Valley was placed at $1.5 million and more than 3,000 people were left homeless. Damage extended from Chippewa Falls all the way to Durand. (Chicago Tribune, Sept. 11 and 13, 1884)



  • Black River Falls, 1911

    In early October 1911, heavy rains filled the upstream tributaries to the Black River, and near dawn on Oct. 6, two dams above Black River Falls gave way. The river rose 20 feet over its already high level and rushed through city all day. By nightfall, 85 percent of the business district had been washed downstream; 80 buildings and 42 acres of land, including entire hillside neighborhoods, were swept away. Miraculously, no one was killed, but only 14 structures remained in the downtown and damages were estimated at $2 million. (Olson, Ann Marie. Black Friday (Black River Falls, Wis.: Block Print, 1987)



  • Sparta, 1943

    On May 31, the worst flood in the town's history caused damage estimated at half a million dollars when Bear Creek jumped its banks after torrential rains. Homes and businesses were inundated 3-4 feet deep, bridges were washed out, and roads destroyed. In addition, water mains broke, which not only reduced the water supply but contaminated water still available. At least one person drowned, and damages were estimated at $250,000 within the city and an equal amount in surrounding areas. (Wisconsin Centennial Story of Disasters and Other Unfortunate Events, Madison, 1948

    Learn More:



Flood Hazard Information
  • Flash Flooding

    Flash flooding is a rapid and extreme flow of high water into a normally dry area, or a rapid water level rise in a stream or creek above a predetermined flood level, beginning within six hours of the causative event (i.e., intense rainfall, dam failure, ice jam). More information...

  • River Flooding

    River flooding occurs when river levels rise and overflow their banks or the edges of their main channel and inundate areas that are normally dry. More information...
  • Coastal Flooding

    At any time of year, a storm from over the ocean can bring heavy precipitation to the U.S. coasts. Whether such a storm is tropical or not, prolonged periods of heavy precipitation can cause flooding in coastal areas, as well as further inland as the storm moves on shore. More information...

  • Ice/Debris Jams

    A back-up of water into surrounding areas can occur when a river or stream is blocked by a build-up of ice or other debris. Debris Jam: A back-up of water into surrounding areas can occur when a river or stream is blocked by a build-up of debris. More information...
  • Snowmelt

    Flooding due to snowmelt most often occurs in the spring when rapidly warming temperatures quickly melt the snow. The water runs off the already saturated ground into nearby streams and rivers, causing them to rapidly rise and, in some cases, overflow their banks.More information...
  • Dam Breaks/Levee Failure

    A break or failure can occur with little to no warning. Most often they are caused by water overtopping the structure, excessive seepage through the surrounding ground, or a structural failure. More information...
Protect Life and Property NWS Forecast Offices and River Forecast Centers (RFC) Covering Wisconsin