State News

Western Wisconsin at higher risk for spring flooding

Higher levels of precipitation and temperature swings that caused partial ice melts created a higher risk of floods near the Mississippi and its tributaries.  

Higher levels of precipitation and temperature swings that caused partial ice melts created a higher risk of floods near the Mississippi and its tributaries.  

Image By: Courtesy of Charles Nadeau

National Weather Service officials said conditions along the upper Mississippi River likely mean a higher risk of spring flooding in Wisconsin communities like La Crosse.

In the agency’s annual Spring Flood Outlook, the NWS said risk for flooding along the Mississippi and its tributaries can be “well above normal.” 

In La Crosse, water levels are already higher than normal in part because of a record amount of precipitation in 2019 and temperature swings that thinned parts of the ice.

Mary Stefanski from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the river around La Crosse has been much higher than normal and local residents are surprised by the levels. 

"We've been flooded all winter," Stefanski told WPR. "I've had many people tell me they've never seen this before in their lives."

Stefanski said the flood conditions have affected local wildlife. Local ice fishers reported moving water in some areas of the river, which likely impacts fish populations wintering. 

John Wetenkamp, a service hydrologist at the NWS’s La Crosse office, said weather in the next couple months would be important to avoiding major spring flooding. If precipitation stays low and temperatures remain freezing overnight, it would create a slower snowmelt in the region. 

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