A low water level reveals a rocky riverbed on the Fox River at Riverside Park in Burlington Tuesday. The river is at its lowest point since 2012 due to drought conditions, according to the National Weather Service. (Photo by Ed Nadolski)

Scarce rain has river at near-record low levels

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

Continued lack of rain in Southeast Wisconsin has extended drought conditions and has drained some area waterways to near-record low levels in recent weeks.

According to the National Weather Service, as of last week, Racine and Walworth counties remain under severe drought while a portion of far southeastern Kenosha has experienced extreme drought.

“Drought conditions developed in April and have persisted through the summer and continue into the fall,” the National Weather Service states, adding some areas have seen some relief in recent weeks with near normal rainfall.

But 3- to 6-month precipitation deficits, the Weather Service states, have continued to drive drought conditions.

Since Sept. 1, according to the National Weather Service, much of southeast Wisconsin has received less than 1-inch of rain while the average is 2.5 inches.

“This area is experiencing short and longer term dryness,” the Weather Service states.

As the area continues to grapple with drought conditions, the National Weather Service does not expect any beneficial rainfall for Racine, Walworth and Kenosha counties in the short-term forecast.

“Very little precipitation is expected over the next week,” the Weather Service said on Sept. 24. “The week two outlook, valued Oct. 1-7, indicates below normal precipitation is likely for southern Wisconsin.”

The National Weather Service noted repeated rounds of rain in the next couple weeks would be needed to end drought conditions in Southeast Wisconsin.


Area waterways affected

The lack of rainfall, meanwhile, has left the Fox River in Burlington and near New Munster with near record low water levels.

In Burlington, according to the Weather Service, the Fox River’s last recorded reading on Sept. 27 showed a depth of 5.72 feet, well below minor flood stage of 11 feet.

The reading is the lowest since 2012 when the Fox River registered 5.44 feet, according to preliminary data from the National Weather Service.

By comparison, during the 2017 flood in Burlington, the Fox River hit a record high of 16.15 feet.