Northeastern Iowa flash flood waters higher than 2008 levels

Flood waters rose above many bridges along the Upper Iowa River this week. (Michael Massa/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | August 26, 2016

Iowans have seen their fair share of extreme rain events this summer. This week, three northeastern counties were drenched again.

Between six and eight inches of rain fell on Winneshiek, Chickasaw, Allamakee counties over Tuesday night as a series of thunderstorms moved through the area. Upper Iowa River gauges indicated that the river rose more than ten feet overnight near Decorah, Iowa. The area was pelted with almost an inch of rain per hour from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. Residents in Freeport, a small community just east of Decorah, were hit especially hard. Those living along the Upper Iowa River received little notice. Emergency officials notified the neighborhood at about 5 a.m., after much of the flooding had already occurred.

“I woke up this morning when my neighbor called me and said ‘You out of bed yet?’ and I said no and he said, ‘Well you better get up,’ because the water was up to his deck,” said Ron Teslow of Freeport. Teslow had more than three feet of water standing in his basement, and he was more fortunate than others. Jon Aske, also of Freeport, said his basement collapsed in on itself as a result of the flooding, “About 4:15, 4:30 (Wednesday morning) we just heard a crash and the basement foundation crashed in,” he recalled. An emergency shelter was established at a local church for those that were flooded out of their homes.

In Fort Atkinson, a town twenty minutes south of Freeport,  Rogers Creek, a tributary of Turkey River, was reported to have risen nine feet in three hours. City officials said that they expected the Turkey River to crest more than a foot above the 2008 flood levels later Wednesday afternoon. Mayor Paul Herold wondered, “If they’re going to call that a 500 year flood, what are they going to call this?”

Decorah City Manager Chad Bird said the situation was the same in his town.”In some areas of town, the water was higher today than it was in ‘08,” he said referring to the 2008 floods. He pointed out, however, that this flood was due to flash flood conditions whereas the 2008 incident was a prolonged flooding event.

One causality has been reported after a car was swept off the roadway by water from the Turkey River in Chickasaw County early Wednesday morning. Flood warnings stayed in effect until Thursday for most of Northeast Iowa. Richland and Crawford counties of Wisconsin were also effected.

UI sends flood aid to Sioux City

The University of Iowa began to send flood barriers to Sioux City at 9 a.m. today.  The UI hopes to assist flood-threatened Western Iowa by providing the devices that were in storage since 2008. reports:

The University of Iowa began to load dozens of HESCO flood barriers on flat bed trucks to send to flood-threatened Sioux City at 9:00 a.m. this morning.

In storage at various buildings on the University of Iowa Campus since the flood of 2008, the University of Iowa is sending all available units to the places in western Iowa that desperately need them.

“The initial call [for barriers] came in last Thursday,” Communications Manager of University of Iowa Facilities Management Wendy Moorehead said. “We’re able to send out around 32,000 linear feet.”

Around 33 flood barriers can fit on a single flatbed truck. The University of Iowa expects to need two trucks to carry all of the units to Sioux City today.

Once all units have been sent out, the University of Iowa will receive replacement HESCO barriers, to replace the ones currently being shipped out of the area next week, at no cost to the University.

“Our risk for flooding here is very minimalized,” Facilities Management employee Allan Culbert said. “They really need them right now.”

Iowans must adapt to Climate change

This article, by Jerry Schnoor, also appeared in the January 17, 2011 edition of the Daily Iowan.

By Jerry Schnoor

How much has the climate changed in Iowa over recent decades? What are the impacts on the State’s agriculture, water resources, wildlife, public health and the economy? These questions served as the impetus for a new report released this month, requested by the Iowa Legislature, and produced by a small group of faculty and staff working together from the regents’ institutions in Iowa.

Jerry Schnoor

Gene Takle, a professor of atmospheric science at Iowa State University, analyzed the primary data and found that today’s Iowans are experiencing a wetter, milder climate. We are living with more temperate winters, a longer growing season, warmer summer nights, increased humidity, greater precipitation (especially in April-July), and more intense rainfall events.

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Iowa City approves 500 year flood plain rule

The Iowa River. - Photo by Jim Malewitz

Thanks to a measure just passed in the city council, Iowa City residents may see a future of drier homes and lower flood insurance premiums.

In a unanimous vote, the council voted to require that new buildings would be constructed at least one foot above the 500 year flooding levels. And important facilities like public safety buildings, water treatment plants and hospitals are now required to be built outside of flood levels.

In the past, the rule was set in respect to the 100-year flood plain, which did little to protect Iowa Citians’ property from the surging waters of the 2008 floods.

The new flood plain was based largely upon an Cedar Falls ordinance viewed by many as a success.

More from the Iowa City Press Citizen.

New Iowa flood resources from Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

Want to learn more about flooding in Iowa? Check out the new flood resource page from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. It includes text and video clips on Iowa’s history of floods and policy recommendations for reducing future flood damage.

Anatomy of Iowa Floods: Preparing for the Future – Seminar Series – 2010

Filling the Burlington City Council chambers, Southeast Iowa residents patiently listen to the panel of flood experts in Burlington on June 16, 2010.

Next stop: Red Oak. The Iowa Floods of 2008 are receding into history, but Iowans can learn from them, and from flooding this past summer. That was the message put forth in community seminars sponsored in part by the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research this summer and fall.

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