We continue this weeks discussion of Severe Weather Awareness Week with quite possibly the most important topic, flash flooding. The Coulee Region is so susceptible to flooding and you should be prepared anytime waters begin to rise.
The Coulee Region has seen its' fair share of flooding events over the years. The topography and geography of the area, unfortunately, lends itself nicely to flooding scenarios that can wash away homes and devastate lives. Scenes like boats being taken for a ride over dams has become all too familiar over the last several years. It just comes with the territory. Todd Shea, warning coordination meteorologist at the La Crosse National Weather Service says, "This area in the Coulee Region, you've got the steep valleys and the steep bluffs. That terrain just enhances the runoff. It kind of collects that water much quicker and we get enhanced flash flooding in the area. You know, we've certainly seen lots of examples over the last ten to fifteen years. It can become life threatening very quickly."
Flooding events have intensified over that time span of ten to fifteen years. Just ask Chief Meteorologist Dan Breeden who has forecast it all over his thirty year tenure at WXOW. Breeden added, "The magnitude of those events; it used to be when I started my career, three or four inches of rain is something we talked about for months. Now we get six, seven, eight, even ten inches of rain at one time. I think that is a difference we have seen since I started in the business."
Unfortunately, with more rain comes more serious hazards like landslides. Keith Butler, the emergency management coordinator for La Crosse county brings up a great point adding, "I think in the past, we've always thought the Mississippi River was our number one threat. 2001, '07, '08, '16, '17, we've had presidential disaster declarations because the water didn't necessarily come up, it came down. It came down the hills. It wiped out homes, it wiped out driveways, and it wiped out roads."
It all happens so quick, so you need to know your emergency plan and you have to have the essentials ready to grab and leave with on a moments notice. Butler describes the important things you should have ready when flash flooding occurs by saying, "Purses, pills, and pets. Have something with you that has your identification and has some cash because ATM's and other things may not be working and have that ready to go. Pills; if you have medicines that you need to take spatially on a daily basis make sure you have either a second set available to grab and go or you can get those and round them up quickly and take them with you. And pets; you can't just leave your pets behind."
This severe weather season is your time to just be! Be aware of your surroundings, be prepared, be aware of the forecast, and be leaking these flooding safety tips to your friends and family. Remember to always avoid flooded roadways and areas that are barricaded off. Two feet of water is enough to sweep your vehicle away. Also, it only takes six inches of moving water to knock a person down.
Other things to keep in mind is that braking distances increase on wet surfaces, and finally, remember to always have those headlights on during rain events. It is Wisconsin state law.
Don't forget to download the WXOW Stormtracker 19 Weather App to stay up to date on the fast changing details of the forecast and flash flooding this severe weather season.