Northeastern Iowa flash flood waters higher than 2008 levels


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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.

Extreme Weather Hurting Water Lines


Photo courtesy of Justin Wan, The Gazette-KCRG TV9.
Photo courtesy of Justin Wan, The Gazette-KCRG TV9.

Both Iowa City and Cedar Rapids have seen a historic number of water mains break this January, officials say.

Ed Moreno, the Iowa City water division superintendent, said the problems are most often occurring with cast iron pipes laid from World War II until the 1970s. Cast iron is less flexible than the newer pipes made out of ductile iron or PVC.

Iowa City has had 26 water main breaks since January 1, while Cedar Rapids has seen 40.

So far, the breaks have cost $35,000, but the total will increase when jobs are completed in the spring.

To read the full story at The Gazette, click here.

From our office, a real-time glimpse at adaptation to Iowa’s changing weather


Over the past few days, we’ve gotten a live-action look at climate change adaptation from the comfort of our offices. As some of us gaze out the windows of Iowa Advanced Technology Labs on the UI campus, we can see a crew working hard to build a flood wall along the Iowa River.

As Iowa sees more extreme weather, including heavy rains, we know that the river will spill its banks again.

Joe Bolkcom, CGRER’s Outreach and Community Education Director, took a few shots from inside and outside of his office. The pictures are especially poignant today, as UI officials are expected to announce a new cost estimate from the 2008 floods that will exceed $743 million.

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And speaking of climate change, check out this great interactive feature from the New York Times: As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas.