Flooded Northeast Iowa

Sunset in Manchester, Iowa

Iowa is again in the news for flooding. Just two years removed from the flood of all floods, a dam break brings in the national media for a look at our situation. Iowa set a record for wettest month ever. July, to this point, is the 7th wettest on record.

Again, eastern Iowa is the spot. But this time, a little more north than before. I did hit some of the homelands in the damage tour on Friday and Saturday.

Fontana Park, Buchanan County, Iowa

That included spots in Buchanan County at Fontana Park, just north of  Independence. The park was mostly open, but you didn’t want to get to close to the edge of the river, because it was moving quickly into the Wapsie.

I did get to have a nice conversation with a couple of Amish boys who were checking out the water.

Then I got a look at the Fayette County town of Oelwein.

A couple of people told me Friday afternoon to check out City Park on the southside of town. I did. The park was closed to the south, but you could still look at the dam from the east side. You know, the place with the big jet airplane on stilts? For the second time in 2 weeks, Oelwein had almost 10 inches of rain in just a few hours.

A drive east on Highway 3 saw water had been around. Lots of matted down grass along the road and in the waterways was visible.

The Maquoketa River through Backbone State Park

I made it partially into Backbone State Park. The Maquoketa River runs through the park. Just upstream in Strawberry Point, almost 9 inches of rain fell Friday morning. That water just ran down stream. The view here is off the river running through the park before it got to the boat house.

JHS friend Brian Stark works in Strawberry Point most days and said if he was going to work on Friday, he wouldn’t have made it as the water was partially blocking the driveway to his workplace.

Lamont, IA

Just east of the park is the town of Lamont. Volunteers were helping city crews sand bag around the water plant.

The stream that runs through town is regularly no bigger than what a garden hose produces. But early Friday, it was a raging river and debris was left behind.

This too, is the second time Lamont was hammered with a lot of water in a short period of time. This water eventually flows into the Maquoketa River.

Are you detecting a pattern yet?

Follow the money, or in this case, follow the water.

Manchester's downtown from Main Street looking east from the Maquoketa River bridge.

That’s what I did when I ended up in Manchester Friday evening where the Maquoketa River set a record of over 22 feet. The record was last set in 2004 with two previous high water marks coming in 2008. The images from these places are amazing. Thanks to Jesse Gavin for the help in navigating town.

I did find an interesting thing in looking at NOAA’s Advanced Hydrological historical data for Manchester. All of the historic crests have been in the last 10 years.

Historical Crests
(1) 21.66 ft on 05/23/2004
(2) 20.80 ft on 05/26/2008
(3) 20.50 ft on 06/09/2008
(4) 20.10 ft on 05/30/2008
(5) 18.95 ft on 04/25/2008
(6) 18.35 ft on 06/04/2002
(7) 14.17 ft on 05/31/2004
(8) 12.18 ft on 04/04/2007
(9) 11.37 ft on 07/09/2003
(10) 10.31 ft on 06/17/2004

Hardee's drive thru in Manchester. July 23, 2010.

Even the lowest level was in 2005. What’s going on there?

That is where the media was camped out for evening live shots.

Also, Manchester was one week away from hosting RAGBRAI riders on the last overnight stop of the trip. There was no denying the town, they were going to be back and ready for all those bike riders when they peddled into town.

But it was Saturday that provided the historic moments.

I stayed in Jesup with my parents to be closer to Independence and other northeast areas if the forecasted rains came through as predicted. A tremendous amount of lightning hit with this storm, but the rain wasn’t as heavy in the hard hit areas of Friday night. But I saw a tweet from Justin Gehrts of KCRG-TV Saturday morning that got my attention.

It was about concerns over the dam at Lake Delhi. I knew that wasn’t far away, so I headed the IPTV cruiser to that direction.

Delaware County bridge just above Lake Delhi's beginning.

I did find a flooded crossing of Highway D5x and X 21 that was going around the bridge to a low road to the west. I kept heading downstream to get a look at the dam. My father had said that dam was a favorite place to fish of his. (There’s a story written Wednesday that says the fishing species will drastically change now that the dam is gone.)

I did get a look at the dam from the east side, but at that time, no water was over the dam. That would start happening about 90 minutes later and then the failure of the dam would happen around 1pm Saturday.

Those images were captured by many outlets. The Des Moines Register has good shots, so does the Gazette of Cedar Rapids.

IPTV’s Steve Carns was back at Lake Delhi on Monday. He said what was left of the lake looked like a movie set. The water that broke through the side of the dam drained the lake in just a few hours. It was like pulling the plug on the bathtub.

Thanks to KMCH radio for regular updates on the flooding. They were doing what local radio is meant to do, inform the locals on what’s happening. I struggled to find fresh newscasts that morning that weren’t pre-recorded or not covering this story.

This week I’ll be writing a story on the flood situation in Iowa and what impact that has on rural America for Market to Market. That story will air at 8p Friday night in Iowa.

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