The recent storms that raged across southern Wisconsin can now be seen in the high water levels of local lakes. Gauges on lakes Mendota and Monona, for example, have measured climbs of about a foot and a half in recent days.
The Yahara River gauge at East Main Street is reading a height almost three feet above its median for the last four years, and at this writing shows a discharge of more than 500 cubic feet per second -- about five times the median value for this date.
Yet another remarkable meteorological event is noted by Scott Lindstrom of the Space Science and Engineering Center at UW-Madison. He notes that the recent storms have pushed Madison's rain total for the past 365 days to 52.95 inches -- not counting the rain that fell this afternoon. That total may or not be a Madison record for 365 consecutive days, but it does exceed the record for one calendar year, set in 1881, when 52.91 inches of rain fell on Madison between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31.
These are but a few measures of the post-deluge dynamics that occur in a watershed that drains hundreds of square miles.
Higher lake levels have the effect of increasing the lake's surface area -- making it appear swollen when you look across to the far shore, but also showing evidence of increased acreage in places like the southwest corner of Yahara Place Park.
Here the Yahara River empties into Lake Monona, water levels are lapping up over the retaining rocks along the shoreline onto the lawn, as seen in this video clip:
At B.B. Clarke Beach the lake has claimed all but a thin strip of the beach's sand and threatens to turn the lifeguard station into an island, as seen in this clip:
Even if people were interested in swimming in the high waters at B.B. Clarke, the beach is closed. The Department of Public Health for Madison and Dane County announced on Wednesday that all beaches in the city are closed until further notice. As detailed in the news advisory:
The heavy rains of this weekend caused the overflow from several points in the sewer system of the Madison Metropolitan Sewage District. As a result, untreated wastewater has entered lakes Monona and Mendota in various locations. Therefore raw sewage may be present in the waters of these lakes. Sewage contains high levels of pathogenic microorganisms and contact with this water may cause illness. Although we do not have any other specific reports of other similar problems, sewage release may have also occurred in other lakes rivers or streams. Heavy rains always carry many contaminates into lakes so swimming is not advised on other lakes at the present time.The department also advises against canoeing and kayaking.
Though this is hardly a catastrophe on the scale of the recent disaster at Lake Delton -- which emptied in the wake of the recent storms, sweeping away several homeowners' properties -- it is an impressive reminder of the consequences that follow remarkable meteorological events.
More strong storms are in the forecast for Thursday and Friday.