Although it’s nearly July, the Mississippi River’s high waters have continued to make waves in the area. Winona and the surrounding area have received a lot of rain in the past few weeks, causing the Mississippi River to rise and the ground to become saturated with water, explained Dan Jones, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in La Crosse.
“Since we are now so well saturated, any additional rainfall will run off to creeks, rivers, and streams,” Jones said. This run-off will play a bigger role in the next couple of days. Any heavier rain is going to run off pretty quickly, potentially causing flash flood conditions, he explained.
“We have tributaries that are a little bit more flashy than others around here,” Jones added. All of those tributaries end up in the Mississippi, adding to the already flowing water, Jones said.
“The Mississippi River is discharging at 72,800 cubic feet per second (CFS); the normal discharge for this date is 38,500 CFS,” explained Farley Haase, lock and dam regulator for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
As of Tuesday morning, the Mississippi River at Winona was at 9.29 feet and forecast to rise to 10.6 feet, Haase explained. Action stage will not be reached until 11 feet and minor flood stage is at 13 feet, he added. The water level would have to be considerably higher to cause any issues in the regular functioning of the river, Haase said.
The Mississippi River may still be functioning, but the added water this summer has resulted in the displacement of wildlife. There are animal displacements that are occurring along the river, explained Mary Stefanski, Winona district manager of the Upper Mississippi National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. "People are more likely to see raccoons, deer, and other animals inland, as they are being pushed farther out by the river,” Stefanski said. “This tends to happen every year; it’s just dragging out longer than normal this year,” Stefanski added.
The National Fish and Wildlife Refuge earlier closed down an area of the river, Mertes Slough, due to vulnerable nesting of animals such as the blue heron, Stefanski said. The river height has made the nests more vulnerable to human disturbance, through kayaking and canoeing, Stefanski added.
According to Stefanski, with all of this extra water in the river, users should be aware that the current is fast and it is carrying debris; people should be watching for floating logs, branches, and other debris.
All of the rain lately has clearly increased the height of the river for this time of year, but closer to the end of the week things should begin drying out, Jones added.