As the river moved in, Darla Chester moved her most valuable possessions out of the Usher Street home she rents on French Island. Her cedar chest, china cabinet and wood furniture now are safely tucked away in an Onalaska storage shed.
“With the news up north, we prepared for the worst,” she said.
About 10 a.m. Monday, water started to seep through the stone blocks of her basement and bubble up from cracks in the foundation floor. Looking at a pool perhaps a centimeter deep Monday afternoon, she recalled how water rose to the basement windows during the 2007 floods, when the family had to evacuate.
She hopes that doesn’t happen again, she said, knocking on the wooden basement steps.
“I’m surprised at this point (with how low it is), but we’ll wait and see,” she said.
The Mississippi River at Riverside Park reached 13.8 feet at 4 a.m. Monday. By 4 p.m. it had dropped to 13.7 feet, still above the 12-foot flood stage.
The National Weather Service in La Crosse expected the water to rise again to 13.9 feet overnight and issued a flood warning for the area.
It could remain above 13 feet for a week, but shouldn’t create much trouble, officials said.
“It’s when it gets up to 16 or 17,” said Tony Hutchens,
La Crosse’s assistant director of public works.
Most storm sewers discharging to the river were gated off to prevent water from rushing back. Several dry days have allowed the city to run some intermittently, he said, but it won’t be totally reversed until the river is below 12 feet.
Pettibone Park, Pettibone Campground and Nelson Park on French Island remained under water Monday afternoon, and the river had spilled onto the edge of the paved road around Copeland Park, though it remained open as the waters recede.
“Copeland Park looks like it’s going to be alright,” city Parks and Recreation Director Steve Carlyon said.
While Carlyon expects crews in the next few days will be able to get in, grade the roads and begin cleaning up, it likely will be three weeks before the parks are totally restored.
About half of the camp sites at Goose Island Campground are under water and reservations for the weekend have been switched to higher ground. Only its west landing is open, and all five shelter houses are closed as well.
“We have duck hunters coming this weekend, but there are no islands out there to hunt on,” said Ida Jensen, campground manager.
Some French Island roads remain impassable, and only residents were allowed to enter the very north end of Lakeshore Drive.
Marjorie Collins, who lives in that area, said only her dock showed damage so far.
For now, “it’s interesting,” she said, “to see what floats by.”