MILWAUKEE (AP) — The rainstorms that flooded Milwaukee County streets and tore open a giant sinkhole in one intersection caused an estimated $28 million in damage, according to the county’s disaster declaration.
Thursday’s torrential rains caused more than $10 million in damage to public property and another $18 million to private property, according to the declaration released late Friday.
The storms dumped nearly 6 inches of rain in as little as two hours. That backed up drainage systems and caused several rivers to overrun their banks. Gov. Jim Doyle declared a state of emergency in the county.
The National Weather Service also confirmed that Thursday’s storm included four tornadoes. The strongest, with winds between 115 and 120 mph, hit the Big Bend area of Waukesha County about 7 p.m.
A second tornado with winds about 90 mph touched down in Walworth County, while two others hit Fort Atkinson and Cold Spring in Jefferson County.
The rain continued Saturday in parts of southwestern Wisconsin. Argyle received 4.4 inches from Friday to Saturday morning, while the Darlington area got 3.9 inches.
Other swaths of southern Wisconsin were spared, as Madison and Milwaukee each got less than an inch.
“It was a close call here,” said Chris Franks, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Milwaukee-area office. “If you shift that rain 50 miles to the north we’d have big problems in Milwaukee.”
The city already experienced its share of problems in recent days. The most prominent was a 20-foot sinkhole that tore open an intersection Thursday, swallowing a Cadillac Escalade and leaving the driver with minor injuries.
The SUV, which had a full tank of gas, continued idling at the bottom of the hole. Crews used a crane to remove the vehicle late Friday night.
City officials said the sinkhole apparently formed after drainage problems weakened the pavement. Repairs are expected to take at least six weeks.
Franks said southern Wisconsin should get a chance to dry out before new thunderstorms possibly arrive next week. There’s a 30 to 50 percent chance of storms starting Tuesday, but most of the flooded areas should be drained by then, he said.