Mississippi predicted to go back up to 22.7 feet by Friday

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This is one of two pumps on County K north of Prairie du Chien that are pumping water away from a trailer court and into Gremore Lake. The pumps have been pumping for more than two weeks. They pump 30,000 gallons per minute. (Photos by Ted Pennekamp)

This section of North Main Street is expected to get even more water soon.

 

By Ted Pennekamp

 

The Mississippi River is now predicted to bounce back up and have a second crest. According to the National Weather Service, the river was at 18.22 feet at 12:45 p.m. on April 19 at the McGregor guage. It dipped down to about 18 feet on April 20 and is predicted to reach 22.7 feet on Friday, April 26. On April 22, it was at 19.17 feet. 

If the river were to reach 22.7 feet, it would be only the third time in history that it eclipsed the major flood stage of 22 feet. It would also be the third highest ever recorded at McGregor. The highest was 25.38 feet in 1965. The second highest was 23.75 feet in 2001. The 100-year flood stage at McGregor has been calculated as 24.16 feet.

As of April 22, the river had a flow rate of 171,000 cubic feet per second at Lock and Dam 9 near Lynxville, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers.

“Another crest looks to be coming and it is due to the concentrated rain we had in watersheds of the Cannon, St. Croix and Chippewa rivers and the Mississippi River headwaters,” said Patrick Loch of the Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District. “Also, the forecast is taking into account additional snowmelt in northern Wisconsin.”

Loch said there is potential that this crest could close locks in the Corps of Engineers Rock Island District and in the St. Paul District.

“This obviously impacts the start of the navigation season,” said Loch. “Though there are some local/recreational vessels locking through various locks, tows are going to need the whole system open to start heading to the Port of St. Paul.”

In fact, Lock 4 in Alma, Wis., is now closed to recreational vessels and barge traffic. The closure is a result of flows at the Lock and Dam exceeding 174,000 cubic feet per second as of April 22. The flows are expected to increase in the next several days.

The Mississippi River crested at 21.34 feet on Friday, April 5. It then slowly dropped to about 18 feet and is now predicted to go back up and reach a crest of 22.7 by Friday. At 22 feet, the Mississippi River covers the north end of Main Street in Prairie du Chien.

Over about the past two weeks, motorists on County K north of Prairie du Chien have had to drive over two temporary dirt knolls constructed on the road so that water can be pumped from near trailer courts on the east side of the road and into Gremore Lake on the west side. Blair Dillman, the owner of the trailer courts, said pumping has been going 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Approximately 30,000 gallons a minute is being pumped in an effort to keep those seasonal trailers dry. Blair said he has been getting a lot of calls from people regarding their trailers.

“I tell them they’d be better off to get a houseboat,” he said.

St. Feriole Island continues to be closed to vehicle traffic.

Beginning about the middle of March, Crawford County Emergency Management partnered with Prairie Sand and Gravel and the Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution (PDCCI) for sandbagging operations. Sandbags are available upon request and orders will be given to the prison every morning at 9 a.m. In emergency situations, orders will be put into the prison throughout the day. To request sandbags, call emergency management at 326-0266 (leave a message and a return phone call will be made to confirm orders).

Prairie Sand and Gravel donates the sand and hauls it for free every year.

At a planning meeting March 14, Prairie du Chien Fire Chief Jeff Boughton said his volunteer firefighters are available to help fill sandbags if the need arises. Crawford County Emergency Management Director Jim Hackett added that the Bridgeport and Rural Prairie du Chien Fire Department is available to help around the city as a back up. City and county emergency management officials also coordinate with the Prairie du Chien School District when necessary to bring in student athlete teams for sandbag filling. 

Prairie du Chien and Crawford County officials will continue to monitor the river. A plan has been in place for the past 20 years for what action to take at certain river stages.

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