Heavy rain in the past several days is pushing many waterways out of their banks in northeast Iowa. Many communities are seeing flooding and Independence is the latest city at risk. Rick Wulfekuhle, the emergency management coordinator for Buchanan County, says he’s worried for the welfare of the residents of Independence.
“If this comes on as fast as it continues to go, it’s going to hit us faster than people can even respond,” Wulfekuhle says. “We start shutting down roads and get people caught up in the middle of it and they haven’t had time to evacuate with the onset of this flash flooding, that’s the part that scares me and that’s public safety.”
The Wapsipinicon River is rising quickly and may reach a new record height at Independence within a matter of several hours. “I can’t imagine a more critical time than right now,” Wulfekuhle says. “We’ve got road closures. People have to pay attention to that, even though it may not be barricaded, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to travel. People have to proceed with extreme caution. We continue to find washouts we didn’t know we had. It’s a very critical situation.”
Many volunteers are filling and placing sandbags in Independence, but more volunteers are needed as it’s hot, tiring work. “They’re going through sandbags about as fast as they can fill them,” he says.
“Just try to prepare and respond. We’re asking them to check in with Independence Fire so we can capture those volunteers, we’ll know who they are and then send them where they’re needed from there.”
The Wapsi at Independence hit a record high of 22.4 feet in May of 1999. Forecasters say the river may crest later today between 22 and 25 feet.
By Elwin Huffman, KOEL, Oelwein/Waterloo