First spring flooding report shows near to below average risk around La Crosse

Spring thaw flooding risk

LA CROSSE, Wis. - With spring not far away, meteorologists with the National Weather Service say the flooding outlook is predicted to be at or below normal in the coming months. The preliminary report, however, shows some areas along the Mississippi River are slightly more likely to experience flooding.

As the start of spring approaches, the team of meteorologists at the National Weather Service's La Crosse office are monitoring conditions north of the city. 

"Most of the snowpack or the existing snow on the ground is up across northern Minnesota, central Minnesota and northern Wisconsin," said Dave Lawrence, meteorologist for the National Weather Service. 

When that snow melts, it will run south, bringing an increased risk of flooding around Lake City, down to the Onalaska area. 

"Meanwhile, from about La Crosse [and] down south, we're looking at near or slightly below normal risk for overall flooding this spring," Lawrence said. 

That is good news for residents, especially those in the so-called 100-year flood plain.

"What that really means is that this is the height of a flood that would have a 1 percent chance of happening each year," said Lewis Kuhlman, environmental planner for the city of La Crosse. 

The last time the city studied the area, which is mostly around the Black River and La Crosse River, was in 2012. Now, it is studying a spot around the Ebner Coulee Road area. 

"Because of the big flooding in July, we think that provides some good data as far as how we might reassess what the flood potential is," Kuhlman said. 

People living outside those areas are not quite in the clear, however. Many residents experienced rushing water during the spring thaw and flash flooding events over the last couple of years. 

Luckily, there was a general dry spell in the fall and winter, but conditions could quickly change. 

"So that does help reduce that flood risk a little bit. But any time you get significant heavy rains, of course, you can get very rapid rises and possible flooding," Lawrence said. 

The next report is expected to be released on Thursday, March 1.

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