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June 19th Flood Report

posted on June 19, 2008 at 9:33 PM

The circumstances in which Iowa finds itself did not occur overnight, but no one could imagine the abnormal weather would persist for so long.

Early in June the state’s profusion of rivers and streams were swollen by a string of heavy rains. The result has been a nearly two week long sweep of flood waters from the North Central part of the state toward the southeast.

While other regions of the state are just now becoming submerged, recovery is beginning in some of the afflicted areas.

Mason City finally got water back to drink on Friday, almost six full days since the water treatment plant was overwhelmed by the Winnebago River. Clean up of East Park is still a work in progress, but the first of many Iowa towns hit by flood waters is offering hope to those downstream.

Waverly is on the banks of the Cedar River in Bremer County. The Cedar River was over several blocks of Waverly. Now the massive task of clean up begins. Downtown businesses nearest the river are emptying out nearly everything in their stores that was damaged by the flood. At this pile, the owners put out the white flag signaling that they've seen enough.

St. Paul Lutheran is a long-time church in Waverly and has seen water before. Water stains the entrance to the church both outside and inside, a lasting mark on the church and city's history.

The Cedar broke records in nearly every town along its course, including Cedar Rapids where the water went 20 feet over flood stage, and 10 feet over the record that has stood since 1929.

Blocks of businesses in the downtown were under water. Many municipal buildings were the same way, including City Hall which sat on an island then was submerged in the Cedar for a few days. Hundreds of residential blocks were under water, forcing thousands from their homes.

By Tuesday, the water had receded in several parts of town. Homes that broke away were jammed up against one rail bridge north of I-380. Another rail bridge downstream was in the stream. The rail company had put loaded cars on the bridge hoping to keep it in place with high waters rushing by.

The Coralville Reservoir is designed to control the Iowa River and did for several days, but water began to flow over the emergency spillway and is projected to continue until June 25th.

Downstream, Iowa City and Coralville still have high water in many recognizable places. Along the 2nd street area, the University of Iowa softball diamond and everything else around it is under water. Businesses look like boathouses in a marina.

The Iowa River threatened many University of Iowa buildings, prompting the University to suspend operations for a week while waters came up and down around town. Several campus buildings were damaged. Hancher Auditorium had water up to stage level.

To the west, Saylorville Lake is still running water through its emergency spillway. A road below has been washed out as well by the Des Moines River.

The Iowa National Guard helped protect a Des Moines neighborhood called Birdland. A mile-long levee was reinforced with sandbags. But another area of the levee near Des Moines North High School did not hold up to pressure and broke Saturday. Dozens of blocks were under water, which is receding. Levees in downtown held and evacuation orders were lifted by the weekend.

The National Guard also helped hold back the Des Moines River in Ottumwa. Here an electrical station was still dry. But several farm fields are not.

Columbus Junction is where two heavily flooded rivers, the Cedar and Iowa, come together. Forecasters called for record flooding. They were right. The Louisa County Fairgrounds are all under water. You can see in this aerial view there's water covering not just acres, but miles upon miles of farm fields.

Downstream, Oakville is on the Iowa River. The entire town is underwater as well.

Burlington-- The Mississippi now swollen by the Cedar and Iowa rivers was flooding Burlington’s riverfront. But, a break in a levee on the Illinois side of the river relieved some of the pressure and may help spare Burlington. But Illinois communities were inundated and hundreds of square miles of farmland are underwater.


Tags: Cedar Rapids Columbus Junction Coralville Des Moines disasters Energy/Environment FEMA floods global warming HEAT Iowa Iowa City Iowa-storms-08 Mason City Mississippi River Ottumwa University of Iowa water Waverly


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