Crews clearing water inlets, monitoring water levels in Green Bay

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- In March, it will be a year since some homeowners and renters were forced out of their homes due to flooding in Green Bay.

Green Bay’s utility manager, Matthew Heckenlaible, said he can easily recall weather conditions last March as it led to massive flooding, which left several neighborhoods underwater, homes condemned with cleanup that followed for weeks, even months.

“Last year we had a deep freeze in January, a big snowfall and then rain, which lead up to a rapid warm-up. The ground was frozen, so it all went to the East River,” said Heckenlaible.

With recent weather forecasts, local officials are optimistic that history won’t repeat itself.

“The last round of snow raised some concerns along with below zero days, which caused the ground to freeze again, but now with gradual warmup and melt, we are being optimistic we will not see a repeat of last year,” said Heckenlaible.

Even the Northeast winds this week, are not as concerning for Heckenlaible.

“The nice thing about right now is the bay is primarily ice covered so we are not going to see a water surge coming down the bay,” said Heckenlaible. “Being the sheet of ice is relatively one big mass, it’s not going to move all that much.”

But just because the city is hoping history doesn’t repeat itself, it doesn’t mean it can’t, especially along the East River.

“Last year they were ice covered as well, so as water rose, it pushed ice up. It didn’t really break it up, water escaped from under the ice and still caused flooding,” said Heckenlaible.

That is why officials are constantly keeping an eye on Lake Michigan water levels, which are 16 inches higher than last year at this time and currently 5 inches higher than the all-time record for February.
“The East River is actually about the same as it was last year, so monitoring everything as necessary,” said Heckenlaible.

Crews are actively clearing water sewer inlets of snow and debris this week.
“With the early snowfall we got, the leaves weren’t all collected so some may be covering inlets,” said Heckenlaible.

Green Bay’s operations division director, Chris Pirlot, said his team currently trying to decide how many sandbags to keep prepped and on hand.

“We have about 2,000 in storage and made right now, but we’re talking about making some thousands more,” said Pirlot. “We don’t know how many to have prepared. Should it be 10,000 or 15,000? Or should we just make them as we need it?”

Green Bay’s Department of Public Works will be offering residents in flood-prone areas to buy sandbags from them this year. Each sandbag will cost $0.60, but will be delivered to a resident’s home for free.

“Typically the city doesn’t provide things for private individuals or business cause you can get sand and sandbags from Fleet Farm or Menards, but because we are all in this together as a community and city, DPW will provide sandbags to those who need them,” said Pirlot. “To date, we have had a handful, maybe 5 people city wide, who have expressed interest and delivered handbags.”