The rising Wapsipinicon River has residents of Independence preparing for possible record flooding. Buchanan County Emergency Management Coordinator Rick Wolfkuhle calls it a critical situation. "We’ve got a lot of water coming at us…some of which looks to be historical proportions that we’ve never seen before," Wolfkuhle said.
Flood stage for the Wapsi at Independence is 12-feet and Wolfkuhle says the record crest occurred in May of 1999 at 22.35 feet. Forecasters are predicting a crest of around 18.9-feet tomorrow, but Wolfkuhle says the high water mark is hard to predict.
"I’m not sure putting numbers to this (provides) a true picture of what’s going on out here…a migrated area of water that we’ve never seen before, saturation levels that we’ve never seen before, trees tipping over because they’re so flooded at this point…a little bit of wind is taking them out. There’s just so much water everywhere," Wolfkuhle said.
This morning, the Wapsi was four feet above flood stage, rising three to four inches per hour. Buchanan County residents are being warned to prepare for the flood now before it’s too late. Wolfkuhle says they should start packing critical items to take with them if they’re forced from their homes.
"Things like insurance papers, prescription medicines and glasses," Wolfkuhle suggested. Officials who monitor the Wapsipinicon River in Independence are dealing with a secondary problem related to the storms. Wolfkuhle says the electronic gauge that records the water level apparently was struck by lightning over the weekend and isn’t working. The rising river has already forced the closure of a main artery through Independence.
State officials shut down Iowa Highway 150 on the south side of town this morning. Elsewhere in northeast Iowa, more than 500 homes in Charles City are damaged by flooding and one-third of the town of Clarksville is under water. The 27,000 residents of Mason City are without the use of tap water because the city’s water treatment plant flooded.