Street flooding disrupts service at La Crosse food pantry

LA CROSSE (WKBT) —  Instead of putting out produce and servicing clients, WAFER Food Pantry staffers spent their morning Monday putting out sandbags to make sure their building didn’t flood.

In the streets of La Crosse, just a few moments of heavy rain can turn into a flood. WAFER is one of the businesses affected by street flooding in La Crosse.

“Our current building is actually the lowest point in the city,” Executive Director Erin Waldhart said.

With every car that drives by, water rushes off the streets and into the pantry’s doors.

“The system can’t keep up and the traffic creates a tidal wave effect,” Waldhart said.

The pantry was unable to serve people during the rain, Waldhart said.

“We did have someone pull up to the window, but they couldn’t get out of their car because if they would open the door, the water would come in,” she said.

This isn’t the first time the pantry has dealt with flooding.

“We had one that flooded our entire main level,” she said.

In the city of La Crosse, street flooding from rain has become a common issue. In a statement sent to News 8 Now, Mayor Mitch Reynolds wrote, “I have prioritized investments in stormwater infrastructure and directed City staff to plan projects accordingly.”

The city will be using a utility stormwater fund created in 2011 to “fund roughly $1.5 million in stormwater infrastructure projects in 2023 and approximately $3.3 million in projects in 2024,” Reynolds wrote.

News 8 Now reached out to the city’s Water and Utility Department, where no one was available for comment.

Waldhart said she contacted the La Crosse Police Department to shut down the street until the flooding went down.

“And I was told there were more pressing issues to deal with than that,” she said.

In his statement, Reynolds said police were responding to “several stranded motorists who entered flooded areas and could not get out.”

As for WAFER, Waldhart said workers and volunteers are looking forward to moving to their new building, to be constructed soon.

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