OTTUMWA, Iowa -- For a community that has suffered from a serious drought for the last two years, the rainfall on Wednesday, April 17, was quite a surprise. It started in the middle of the night around midnight on Tuesday, and continued with intermittent heavy rain for hours. The gates of the hydro dam in Ottumwa were opened, and the Des Moines River reached flood stage at 11 feet deep by Wednesday evening at 5 p.m.
By bedtime, there was water standing in most of the basements on the south side of this small community, and many of those on the north side as well where the majority of houses rest on rock bluffs above the river basin. The lagoons that were built 60 years ago to contain this kind of deluge were full to over-flowing. People were using shop vacs and sump pumps to try to stay ahead of the onslaught. Many were up all night trying to win the war.
Nolan Miller said he had five inches of water in his basement Thursday morning when he checked it. He called Roto-rooter to check the floor drain in his basement and gets things draining again. Fortunately his furnace and hot water heater were spared any damage. Lucas Bresch said he tried wall patch in his basement on a crack where water was draining in at floor level. That patch would hold, but then a new leak would spring out above that one. He patched the wall for two hours and when water started pouring through the basement windows he gave up the fight and went to bed. So he was up at the crack of dawn, after the rain stopped, to clean it all up.
By dawn, the Des Moines River was just shy of 17 feet. There was flooding at Rabbit Run, River Road, and a huge washout in the Highway at 90th Avenue. There was a boil water order for citizens in those communities.
When I headed back to Iowa City, flood waters were ready to shut down Highway 34 west of Fairfield, and west of Mount Pleasant. The Skunk River was only inches from covering the road on the Des Moines River side. At the North English River Highway 218, there were road block signs up, closing off part of the highway south of Iowa City. Hills, Iowa, looked like a gigantic lake. There were flash flood warnings out all over the state. People were being warned to, under no conditions, to drive in any water that covered any road due to the possibility of washouts that couldn't be seen.
Finally tractors were brought in to pump out the southside lagoons in Ottumwa, Iowa. It was almost too little too late for most southsiders, but still it brought the lagoon levels down. Thank goodness the rain predicted for Thursday and Friday didn't arrive as predicted.
- Nature & Environment
- Natural Phenomena
- Des Moines River