After a not-very-wet June, this summer’s weather has turned disastrous across much of Iowa. Many communities in the eastern part of the state were devastated in July. The dam failure that ruined Lake Delhi attracted most of the media attention, but extensive property damage occurred in many other communities, including Waterloo, Oelwein and Maquoketa.
Central Iowa has had close to 10 inches of rain in the past few days, and floodwaters in Ames are higher than they were in 1993 or 2008. Parts of I-35 and Highway 30 near Ames were closed on August 11, and the city’s water treatment plant is not operational, so there is a boil order for drinking water.
Oskaloosa, Fort Dodge and parts of the Des Moines area have also experienced some terrible flash flooding.
A 16-year-old girl died after her car was one of three swept off the road near Altoona. Amazingly, 10 of her friends escaped. Please don’t try to drive across roads covered by water. Most people who drown during floods die in their cars.
The immediate concern is keeping people safe and restoring damaged property, but at some point Iowa policy-makers need to do something to improve our floodplain management. During this year’s legislative session, lobbyists for city officials and chambers of commerce were able to block even minimal steps recommended by the state’s Water Resources Coordinating Council.
I noticed that uber-hack Krusty Konservative is blaming I-JOBS for failing to prevent this summer’s flooding. The reality is we need to invest more in flood prevention. State Senator Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids recently estimated that for “about $700 million over the next 10 to 20 years […] we can hold thousands of acre-feet of water in our watershed, reap many economic and environmental benefits, and avoid much of the expense and trauma of having to clean up our homes, businesses and neighborhoods again when the next flood happens.”
This thread is for any comments related to the floods.
UPDATE: Governor Chet Culver discussed the flooding on August 12:
The historic flooding that hit Ames over the last two days, as well as floods that have ravaged many eastern Iowa cities over the past few years, are the “new normal” and a sign the state must improve flood-prevention efforts, Gov. Chet Culver said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
“We are seeing unprecedented flooding – the flooding in Ames is worse than ’93,” Culver said. “Anything the state can do in terms of flood mitigation will be done. We can be smarter in terms of planning and conservation efforts. We need to be aggressive in terms of taking steps regarding flood mitigation.”
Radio Iowa brings some bad news:
The head of the state’s emergency management division says areas of the state which are dealing with the aftermath of flooding today may see another surge of flood water within the next two days. Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Managment administrator David Miller says the National Weather Service predicts rain will fall north of Highway 30 within the next 48 hours.
“Frankly things are pretty well saturated and we have a very narrow window of opportunitiy to mitigate any future damages, so we’ve encouraged local (officials) to look at their critical infrastructure,” Miller says. “What needs to be safeguarded now?”
Miller is urging local governments to take steps “ahead of the storm” to protect drinking water systems and waste-water treatment plants. “If we get more precipitation than anticipated, we could have severe flooding,” Miller says. “If it comes further south than what the Weather Service is currently predicting then, again, we could have severe problems, so we’re paying attention to that.”