Greater than normal risk of spring flooding expected along major rivers

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Spring flooding is expected to impact our area once again. Local meteorologists say several communities have a greater than normal chance of seeing significant flooding in the coming months.

To say our seven-county region experiences flooding is like saying water is wet.

“It’s been very frequent,” said John Wetenkamp, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in La Crosse.

Pick a year any year and someone somewhere has dealt with flooding.

“It’s happened so many years in a row that they are somewhat used to it,” said Brandon Larson, director of Vernon County Emergency Management.

The year 2020 will contribute another verse to the all too familiar song.

“We are seeing an above-normal risk for spring flooding,” Wetenkamp said.

Wetenkamp said several areas along the Mississippi, Black, Trempealeau, and Kickapoo rivers have at least a 90 percent chance of hitting minor flood stage. SpringFloodOutlookBriefing1

“Minor flooding is a safe bet,” he said.

Some spots have a greater than normal chance of seeing moderate or severe flooding. However, the magnitude of the problem is too early to tell for sure.

“The potential is there, but there are some unknowns yet,” Wetenkamp said. “How much additional snow are we going to see? What are the future precipitation trends essentially.”

He said these projections are because of the precipitation we have already received. Precipitation is one factor but more ground saturated this year compared to the same time last year.

“We are seeing a much broader area of wet soil conditions this year,” he said. “Anything that melts or this winter or any additional precipitation that we get is going to go into runoff.”

Minor flooding is just like it sounds, but so is major flooding. If significant precipitation happens in future months communities could be at greater risk.

“Then you are talking about evacuations and a greater impact on the infrastructure,” Wetenkamp said.

Like snow in the winter months, flooding has become something communities expect. Larson said more education is offered so communities can prepare for it.

“We are trying to get more public education and outreach out there to try and plan ahead for this flooding,” Larson said.

Wetenkamp said his office works with Emergency Management to help manage flooding.

“We work really closely with Emergency Management in identifying those spots,” he said. “Especially those spots that are more vulnerable to flooding.”

Officials with the National Weather Service say people who live in communities prone to flooding should get flood insurance now. Some of those policies can take weeks to go into effect.

More information about spring flooding is expected to be released Feb. 27 and March 12th.