We’re only a week into spring and Iowa cities along the Mississippi River are already bracing for floods. The snowpack in Minnesota and Wisconsin is the deepest it’s ever been and when it melts, much of that water will flow into the Mississippi. Flooding could hit Iowa’s eastern-most cities within a few weeks and Tom Berger, emergency manager for Dubuque County, says residents need to get ready.
Berger says “From what the Weather Service is telling us, there’s a high probability that it’ll be a record flood and they need to start preparing now rather than scrambling around at the end.” By early April, some experts predict the Mississippi River could rise as high as 29 feet in Dubuque, which would be higher than the city’s worst-ever “Great Flood of 1965.”
Berger says, “The flood of ’65 is currently the highest on record and it’s anticipated there is the probability that it could go higher than that.” Since that flood, the city built a floodwall and the river would have to rise well above 30 feet to reach its top. Still, emergency managers are telling anyone who lives anywhere near the river to prepare.
Berger says, “Start moving items out of their basements, get them up onto the upper floors and be ready to evacuate.” Berger expects most of the Dubuque area flooding in county parks, like Mud Lake and Massey Station, but as history shows, the whims of Mother Nature are very tough to predict.
New flood forecasts show the Quad Cities will likely avoid the record-level flooding residents had been bracing for this week. Work crews constructed a temporary $2-million flood wall almost overnight around Davenport’s beloved baseball park, home of the city’s River Bandits.
Now, two weeks before opening day, Mayor Bill Gluba says the city’s immediate flood scare may have passed – but potential record flooding remains a fact of the Quad Cities’ new reality. “Now, it’s almost an annual occurrence. Why, who knows,” Glooba says. “but it probably has something to do with some of the shortcomings of the present works that have been done over the years. So we’re not going to wall up our front door and our front porch, ‘cause that’s what makes Davenport unique. But we can provide, as you see here, kind of permanent flood protection barriers so we don’t have to do this every year.”
Students were packing sandbags at Central High School in Davenport Friday, but they had a more immediate problem: rival West High has already filled some 14,000 bags this week. the students said: “West is going down! …Because West is telling us, they’re going to beat you guys – Ooooh, is that what happened? Oh, it’s going down! It’s a competition now! We filled a dump truck in like, fifteen minutes. Assembly line, scoopers, the fillers, the knot-tiers. Like, triple knot them. We wanted to help, so just in case the flood was bad, we could be prepared.”
The work this year included hundreds of man hours building berms, walls, and filling tens of thousands of sandbags — not to spending mention 400,000 city dollars – that went into this weeks’ flood preparations. But Gluba and other city officials say none of it is a waste.
The National Weather Service is predicting a second flood sometime in April.
Katie Wiedemann, KCRG, Cedar Rapids contributed to this story.