Coast Guard urges boaters to stay off the water - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Coast Guard urges boaters to stay off the water

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 LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - The setting for Riverfest is along the beautiful Mississippi River in La Crosse but high river levels pose some additional challenges for boaters wanting to enjoy the Fest.

The United States Coast Guard said the high water is creating unsafe boating conditions and they're urging boaters to stay off the water.

The Mississippi River stage at La Crosse is above 13 feet, the National Weather Service said the last time the river was above flood stage this late in the year was in 1993.

Marion Byerson is the Water Director for Riverfest and serves as an Auxiliary Patrol Commander for the Coast Guard.  He said the high water is "creating a lot of issues." Byerson said the high water means more debris and faster current, which is dangerous to boaters.

Byerson usually sees 300 or 400 boaters out during the 4th of July weekend, but so far he's only seen a handful. "That tells you that people are afraid to come out and they should be," he said.

But some boaters have been itching to get out for months. James Waller docks his boat at the Municipal Boat Harbor. He said, "This past winter was just terrible." This is the first weekend Waller gets to take his house boat out. He said he knows the dangers the river poses and he's prepared.

Byerson said being prepared means being having life jackets, cell phones, and a marine radio.

The Mississippi River is expected to crest in La Crosse within the next 24 hours, then start a gradual fall.

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