Forecasting for potential flooding

Experts monitor water from north of Twin Cities to predict local impact

With rain in the forecast in La Crosse and flooding happening around the Twin Cities, the Mississippi River continues to rise.

When local experts are trying to predict whether or not water from the mighty Mississippi will spill over onto the streets, they need to start a few hundred miles away.

At the National Weather Services and in La Crosse County experts are paying close attention to rainfall and river levels from the start of the Mississippi all the way to La Crosse.

This morning the Mississippi River levels reached 12 feet 6 inches.

La Crosse County Emergency Management coordinator Keith Bulter says, “That’s OK for us.”

But will it get any higher?

“We’re looking at a crest here in La Crosse — it’s going to be right around 13 feet, give or take a few inches, and it’s looking like it will take place next week, like the third or so,” service hydrologist for the National Weather Service in La Crosse Mike Welvaert said.

But with rain in the forecast, that 13 feet is not set in stone.

“There’s all the tributaries (and) streams that feed into the Mississippi, that all comes in at different times, and different locations from here all the way upstream to the Twin Cities area and even beyond that,” Welvaert said.

“The Twin Cities are receiving what they’re calling major flooding right now. The low lying areas are under water,” Butler said.

Butler said water from the Twin Cities area takes about five to seven days to trickle its way down the Mississippi. He said he works with many of the counties in the area to find out what they’re experiencing to plan ahead.

“Whenever it does rain we know that the Black River does rise and there are some surges there so we always communicate with Jackson County to see what is happening there. And then the Trempealeau County folks are seeing that along the Trempealeau River and the Black River in that area, too, so if they’re starting to see some uptick in the low lying areas there we know to warn our people as well,” Butler said.

“If you do encounter high water and there isn’t a barricade, we like to use the phrase turn around, don’t drown. Make sure that you take the extra time to find another route so you can be safe,” Welvaert said.

If the Mississippi River does crest at 13 feet, most of the La Crosse area should be OK. If it gets much higher than that there could be some flooding. Butler said at around 13 feet 6 inches Copeland Park Drive, homes and businesses near the Mississippi River in La Crosse start seeing some issues.

Both the National Weather Service and La Crosse County officials want to remind everyone to be careful around the high water. They say the current is about twice as fast as normal and there is a lot of debris, including full trees floating down the river at about 15 to 20 miles per hour.