Green Bay was one of the hardest hit areas in Northeast Wisconsin on Wednesday as a slow moving storm system brought rain and very strong winds to the area. This lead to rising water levels and many reports of flooding across the city. Let’s take a look back and see what lead to this widespread flooding event.
A few ingredients came together to produce the quickly rising water levels on the Bay and area rivers Wednesday. The Fox River naturally flows northward where it empties into the southern Bay.
A storm system across lower Michigan put our area in a location for strong northeast winds. This storm system moved very little on Wednesday which lead to several hours of northeast winds sustained at 20-35 MPH. The highest wind gust in the region was in Green Bay at the airport which reached 58 MPH! Wind gusts over the Bay likely topped 60 MPH due to no frictional effects from trees and buildings. That northeast wind then worked against the current of the Fox River and also brought water into the southern bay causing the water to pool up in a small area.
All of that water being focused into the lower Bay as well as the Fox and nearby rivers lead to quickly rising water levels. The strong winds also produced higher than normal waves which was no match for most barricades designed to stop the water from flowing into residential areas, parks, and roadways.
This hydrograph shows the water levels of the Fox River in downtown Green Bay. The height is measured in feet above sea level. Notice during the early afternoon Tuesday the water levels were near 582′, but in less than 24 hours that water level reached 584.44′ (Moderate Flood Stage) around noon Wednesday. This quick rise in water was a combination of rainfall and the strong northeast winds backing up the water on the river.
This high water level was also unofficially one of the highest readings on the river. It should be noted that some of the data is out of date and the gauge on the Fox River did move several years ago to a new location likely have a small impact on the historical data set.
Some of the highest impacted areas from the flooding was near East Shore Drive along the south shore of the Bay. Flooding was also reported near the Fox and East Rivers, Suamico River, and Duck Creek. There was also high water reported near Oconto as well as into Door County.