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The flood of 2001 officially ended Monday as the Mississippi River in La Crosse fell below flood stage for the first time since April 12.

"This was one of the longer ones," said hydrologist Mike Welvaert of the National Weather Service in La Crosse. "We still have flooding going on in other parts of the Mississippi, but here in the La Crosse area, it looks like it's over."

Flood stage is 12 feet, and the river level was about 11.7 feet Monday night. Welvaert said it could be mid-June or July until the river falls to its normal level of 5 to 6 feet.

No-wake restrictions were relaxed Monday because of the receding waters. La Crosse County Sheriff Mike Weissenberger said a no-wake ordinance will remain in effect along developed shorelines until the Mississippi falls to 10 feet.

"We still suggest people use a little caution," Weissenberger said. "The water is still high and dangerous."

Steve Mills, who operates the La Crosse Municipal Boat Harbor, said conditions are improving slowly. "It's still a fast current and there's still debris in the water," he said. "It's not ideal like when it's down to 6 feet."

Just days after the U.S Coast Guard lifted a ban on river traffic, recreational boaters are antsy to get out again, Mills said. "We've got six weeks worth of work to do in two weeks because everyone wants their boats in."

Barge operations started again Monday at Agri Grain Marketing in La Crosse. "We filled our barges to make sure it was safe to load at that level," grain buyer Alice Techel said. "(Today) is the first day we actually open for business. We're still taking grain that was due in March, so it's going to be very busy."

Barges also were backed up at Holnam Inc.'s terminal in La Crosse, a spokesman said. The cement company was trucking cement from a plant in Mason City, Iowa, in recent weeks.

North Side La Crosse residents, and those in the town of Campbell and Onalaska can now resume normal water service, La Crosse Public Works Director Pat Caffrey said Monday. "The cooperation from residents and businesses is greatly appreciated and (it) helped reduce the duration and quantity of sewage bypasses to the river. With the groundwater and seepage beginning to decline, the city has not had to bypass any sewage since Thursday."

The flood might be officially over, but cleanup and damage assessments continue in 17 Wisconsin counties. About 40 representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency started arriving in the La Crosse area over the weekend, and many more are on the way.

"We are going to have approximately 200 people at the field office in West Salem, (Wis.,) when we open Wednesday," spokesman Ross Fredenburg said. FEMA expects to stay in the area between one and two months.


FEMA: Flood victims can register for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid by calling 1-800-462-9029 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. People with hearing or speech impairments can call 1-800-462-7585. The following information is required: telephone number, address at the time of the disaster and current address, Social Security number and description of losses.

CLEAN-UP: A task force of volunteers from eastern Wisconsin will arrive Friday in La Crosse and in the town of Campbell to help flood victims with basement cleanup, disinfecting and drywall replacement.

The volunteers are self-supporting and are sponsored by the River of Life Assembly Church of God in Onalaska. "There is no charge for their services and we are extremely grateful for their offer to help," the Rev. Doug Graham said. Residents who want the group's help can call the Campbell Town Hall at (608) 783-0050.