By Madeline Sky, Weekend Meteorologist - bio | email
LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - Along the Mississippi, flooding is a regular occurrence in the spring. In La Crosse, waters have been rising for days, and on Sunday they reached flood stage.
“We’re certainly at risk,” said Dan Breeden, Chief Meteorologist. “The Mississippi River is the 4th longest river system in the entire world and much of what we do in this area revolves around the river so you’re going to expect flooding from time to time.”
When the river stage hits 12 feet it’s considered minor flooding in La Crosse. And right now the levels sit around 12.3 feet.
“We do this every year,” said Keith Butler, Coordinator of La Crosse County Emergency Management. “I think we’re always going to see around that 10 ft mark just about every spring. It’s been pretty rare when it doesn’t get to that. When we start getting higher than 13 we get a little bit more concerned, at 14 or higher we know we’ve got some issues.”
As the Mississippi River rises in La Crosse, Pettibone Park is one of the first areas to feel its affects. But well before this flooding happens the county is already preparing.
“All the communities that know they’re susceptible to flooding have already done things,” said Butler. “The city of La Crosse for instance pre-stages some of their emergency pumps… Just in case the water should rise and those storm water systems should backfill they can pump the water out of there.”
According to Butler, when waters rise to more significant levels, our options for containing them dwindle drastically.
“There’s a series of levees that surround La Crosse and some of the vulnerable areas,” said Butler. “That’s about the only measures that we have, are those levees. Those build ups of earth around the areas of the river that keep the water from backfilling into the community. Rose St itself, in front of the Bridgeview Plaza, is one long levy stretch right there.”
These levees were built in the 1960's and were made as a temporary flood control measure. To keep them operational today, the Public Works Department inspects them every year if river levels are forecasted over 13 feet.
And with any luck, we should stay below that.
“The latest forecast is that we have reached the crest at about 12.3” said Breeden. “It’s expected to slowly fall. But we do have a couple of weather systems in the next seven days that have the potential to produce some heavier rainfall.”
How fast and when the river falls below flood stage will be dependent on the rainfall with these weather systems.
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