LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) — Flood-prone areas of southwestern Wisconsin could see high waters this spring, according to a forecast from the National Weather Service in La Crosse.
The weather agency is predicting an above-normal flood risk along the Mississippi River and its tributaries through May, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. The agency's First 2019 Spring Flood Outlook report warns that the region may experience more runoff this spring because of the snowpack and deeply frozen ground that accumulated.
Soil was already saturated at the beginning of winter due to wet weather in the fall, explained Brandon Larson, Vernon County's emergency management director. It could present problems for the soil as it tries to absorb snow melt and rains in the spring, Larson said.
Communities in the area are also still rebuilding after the damage caused by flash flooding in August and September.
"The municipalities are working on recovery on their own end. Trying to fix roads up and their public infrastructure. Some of their buildings and things like that," Larson said. "Those could very well be affected again."
Keith Butler, La Crosse County's emergency management coordinator, said the severity of the flooding will depend on how quickly snow melts and rainfall over the next few months.
Butler suggested that residents begin preparing for the potentially high waters by updating their flood insurance and moving valuable items out of their basements.
Officials will have time to prepare flood-prone areas because they can monitor flooding coming down river in the spring, unlike flash flooding in the summer and fall, according to Butler.
"It gives you a week or more to really start moving things out of harm's way. Getting your sandbagging or whatever you may need as protective measures," Butler said. "But sometimes these spring floods can come quite rapidly, particularly if there's ice jamming or rapid snow melts or a very warm stretch with rains on top of the deep, deep snow that we've got right now."