DPW clears catch basins as flooding concerns mount

SHOREWOOD (WITI) -- It was measurable snow on Monday, a bit of a warm-up for Tuesday and Wednesday, and on Thursday, February 20th, we saw a mix of precipitation in the state that ended up being mostly rain in southeastern Wisconsin. With several inches of snow on the ground, the warm-up and rain has created flooding concerns.

With so much snow on the ground, the big concern as more precipitation fell on Thursday in Shorewood was covered catch basins.

Shorewood's Chris Westphal said Thursday watching a Public Works crew clear out catch basins has him feeling a little better about all the precipitation we've seen this week.

"We had flooding in the past in Shorewood," Westphal said.

In fact, in July of 2010, two episodes of flash flooding in a one-week period hit Shorewood and the rest of the North Shore hard.

The first incident, on July 15th and 16th of 2010 led to basement flooding and some street flooding.

Then, on July 22nd, up to 7.5 inches of rain fell in just two hours. This turned streets and freeways into rivers and impassible ponds -- and caused sewer backups in many areas.

Following the flooding in July of 2010, frustrated Shorewood residents expressed outrage at Shorewood's Village Board for not fixing the sewer systems more than 10 years ago when they say the flooding problems started.

Prior to the 2010 flooding, Shorewood's sewers were last upgraded back in 1998.

So these days in Shorewood, where there's water, there's worry.

"You’re afraid it’s gonna get into the basement and mess up stuff in your basement," Westphal said.

"When we have heavy rain in the forecast, we do make it a point, operationally, to check and clear as many of the catch basins as we can," Shorewood's Director of Public Works, Leeann Butschlick said.

Butschlick says frozen ground gives very little in the way of options for the aqua.

"It’s not gonna infiltrate into the ground or the grass, and everything that runs off a hard surface is gonna hit what is snow-covered now, and it’s just gonna keep running, so the storm sewer system is the only outlet at this point," Butschlick said.

To keep this outlet open and accessible, Butschlick says work to clear catch basins began earlier this week.

"We’ve actually had equipment out since Monday, working to clear catch basins," Butschlick said.

Butschlick says the focus could shift if temperatures drop.

"If we end up with a fast temperature drop and everything freezes over, you get black ice conditions," Butschlick said.

As for the ground freeze, Butschlick says apparently Shorewood's efforts to repair roughly a dozen water main breaks recently has revealed the ground in Shorewood is frozen to about four feet below the surface.