New spring flood outlook shows more moderate to minor flooding along Mississippi River likely

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)– Good news for residents and business owners along the Mississippi River as the risk for major flooding has gone down. The National Weather Service of La Crosse now predicts more moderate to minor flooding near the river and a near-normal flood risk along its tributaries.

With below-normal precipitation and slow snowmelt locally, there is a reduced chance of significant flooding. But experts are still unsure of how changing conditions to the north could impact the area.

“The headwaters still have five, six, seven inches of rainfall equivalent stored in that snow that needs to make it’s way downstream,” said James Fallon, Service Hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey.

Higher river levels and soil moisture levels locally are still driving the threat.

“The grounds and the rivers are really primed for flood potential. So if you’ve been flooded before, pay especially close attention to river levels and rainfall forecasts,” said John Wetenkamp, service hydrologist for the National Weather Service in La Crosse.

The U.S. Geological Survey says it has been out calibrating stream gauges to ensure they have accurate readings for use by other agencies and community members.

“During a flood, a few tenths of a foot can make a big difference on a levy or someone’s house or property,” Fallon said.

People can monitor flood levels through the USGS website and have alerts delivered when the levels change. Simply click on your state, select the gauge you’re looking for and hit ‘hydrograph’. Below the graph, you can select ‘WaterAlert email and text message alerts’ or ‘Subscribe WaterAlert for this site’.

During a press briefing Thursday, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative said officials are also getting ready for the weeks ahead. The supplies they have are available to other agencies once they have used up their supplies.

“We have sandbags, pumps and everything you need to do for emergency flood fighting measures,” said George Stringham, spokesperson for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Stringham said the Corps has been in contact with local emergency management officials in Minnesota and Wisconsin as part of its regular spring flood preparations. Some have requested help with flood protection devices like drainage systems and pumps.

“We’ve already done that in several communities from Winona down to Guttenberg, Iowa,” Stringham said.

While conditions are looking better, there is still a possibility of a sudden change. Experts urge people all along the Mississipi to be ready.

“Everyone should be prepared for at least minor flooding and the potential for moderate flooding just looking at the probabilities at this point,” Wetenkamp said.

The National Weather Service has some tips and resources on what to do before a flood. That information can be found on its website.