Officials up flood threat for western Wisconsin

Posted March 10, 2023

With recent snowfalls, western Wisconsin is above a normal flood threat for the Upper Mississippi, Minnesota and Chippewa river basins, according to the National Weather Service.

Craig Schmidt, a senior hydrologist in the Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service, studies what the spring flood season may look like and communicates with emergency managers to make preparations for the season. He said that a few weeks ago the situation was different and anticipated a fairly normal spring.

“The last two weeks, we changed that a little bit when we added a lot of snowpack and some rain into the snow that’s already down,” said Schmidt. As of March 9, the flood outlook “has been upgraded to well above normal,” according to the National Weather Service.

Michael Rogney of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources agreed. Rogney, based in Eau Claire, is a water management engineer and works with dam safety and the floodplain program.

“I think what we’re seeing is slightly above probability of potential flooding,” he said.

Continuing into the spring, he will communicate with dam owners with data he is seeing and recommends to have plans in place.

Schmidt reiterated similar thoughts and said residents should be prepared.

“If you’re in an area near a river that does some flooding in spring, this year we have a pretty high threat we’re going to see some flooding,” he said, and added to look at flood insurance especially if you are a business owner. “You have to have some insurance for 30 days before it goes into effect.”

In western Wisconsin, the Kinnickinnic River will be monitored by a gauge and local officials will respond accordingly when the snow melts, said Schmidt.

The last two years, the western Wisconsin area has been in a drought during the spring, but Schmidt said that may help this year to reduce the potential of flooding.

“The drought might actually have helped us a little bit in terms of this year because the early part of the melt is all going to go into the soils before it starts running towards the rivers,” he said.

Additionally, with the recent snowfall, the area may be considered not in a drought for the spring, said Schmidt.

“The Climate Production Center is looking at alleviating our drought conditions in the spring in all of western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota,” said Schmidt.

Flooding predictions look at many different tools, including measuring the amount of water that is contained in the snow, according to Schmidt.

“This year, what we’re seeing is quite a bit more than what we would normally see at the end of February,” he said.

Depending upon the next few weeks of rainfall and snow melting, there may be flooding and both Schmidt and Rogney said to be prepared for what’s to come.

More weekly information, graphs and up-to-date information about the area’s spring flood outlook can be found on the National Weather Service Twin Cities website,