Small Iowa towns like Palo and Chelsea have been evacuated. Levies are proving inadequate to hold back the flooding Cedar River as it rolls far beyond its banks to flood farmland, homes and businesses throughout northeast Iowa. At 3 a.m. this morning, police and fire fighters in Cedar Rapids began going door-to-door in the Czech Village neighborhood, urging residents to leave.
Downtown Waterloo and the main business district in Cedar Falls were evacuated Tuesday. Part of a railroad bridge that transports tractors made at John Deere’s Waterloo Works was washed away by the surging Cedar River just before three o’clock Tuesday afternoon. Early Wednesday in Mason City, water began flowing through the city’s system that was swamped Sunday with flood water, but the water’s not to be used for drinking yet.
The Army Corps of Engineers lowered the barrier holding back the swollen Saylorville reservoir just north of Des Moines and, just north of Iowa City, Coralville Lake started flowing over its spillway last night. The only other time that happened was in 1993. In central Iowa, the Des Moines River may swamp parts of downtown Des Moines later today.
Smaller streams throughout the state are sweeping out over previously dry ground. Along Four Mile Creek on the east side of Des Moines residents are furiously erecting sandbag barriers. In the parking lot of a nearby library, Tom Robinson — an equipment operator for the City of Des Moines — was dumping sand yesterday afternoon. “I’ve hauled in four truckloads of sand,” Robinson said. “That’s at 15 tons a truckload just to this place alone.”
Des Moines City pools were closed and dozens of teenage lifeguards were reassigned to fill those sandbags. Robinson is optimistic this year’s flooding won’t be as bad in Des Moines as it was in 1993. “I feel that we’re ready,” Robinson said. “I feel that, you know, as a whole Des Moines is ready. They’ve got sandbag details, putting in the levies. I think we’re ready for it.”
Dave Davis lives along Four Mile Creek and he remembers what happened 15 years ago. “It looked like we had Fort Knox out here — six-foot-high sandbags clear across the street out here and we still got water in the house,” Davis said.
Davis’ place flooded on Friday, ruining his refrigerator, washing machine and a brand new stove. A friend has offered to put him up in a motel, but Davis won’t go. “I’m staying in my van because I still have a few valuable things left, and there’s been things that happened in the past,” Davis says, “so I’m not going to leave my place unless the water runs me clear out.”
Davis says his home has been flooded five times, but he can’t afford to buy a new home. He’s on the waiting list for a city program that buys flood-prone property, but Davis says the water’s rising faster than his name is on that list.
A line of severe thunderstorms started firing in southwest Iowa shortly after three o’clock this morning. Later this week, flood waters are expected to sweep through the Ottumwa area, prompting the Wapello and Mahaska County Sheriff’s Departments to tell residents along the banks of the Des Moines River yesterday that they should begin evacuating.