A spokesman for Iowa’s governor calls the Missouri River flooding “an increasingly serious situation.” 

Officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for about half of the town of Hamburg, Iowa, today — forcing about 600 residents to leave because of problems with a levee south of town.   The National Weather Service warns Interstate 29 will be flooded if the levee fails.

Derek Hill, head of the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management division, described the breach as a “boil” — a hole of less than an inch-and-a-half in diameter. It created a small geyser of water that began spraying onto the dry side of the levee.  This geyser or boil was found about two miles south of the Iowa/Missouri border, but Hill said the water would flow back into Hamburg if the levee fails.

“Because of the topography there — it’s fairly flat land; there’s not a lot of elevation change — and the hydrologists explained that’s more than likely the direction the water would flow,” Hill said.

A Black Hawk helicopter was dispatched to the levee, which is about five miles southwest of Hamburg. One-thousand pound sandbags were dropped from the helicopter in hopes of plugging the hole. Hill briefed reporters by phone this afternoon.

“(You) use a helicopter rather than putting personnel on the level because of the danger of a…larger levee breach at that time,” Hill said.

Hill has seen maps which indicate the Missouri may flood as far as two miles into Iowa at some locations.

“So the Missouri River, at a few points, is going to be extremely broad,” Hill said. 

Hill is urging Iowans to move all their belongings to higher ground if they’re within the predicted flood zone. The water will stay for weeks, in some cases months, and Hill says not only will mold begin to grow on the structure of a home, but even items which are above the water line in a home will begin to get moldy as well.

“This water is coming,” Hill said. “…The people that live within the inundation area need to be talking to their county officials as to how deep the water is going to be. Is there a way to mitigate against that water or do they need to be moving?” 

According to Hill, there are about 30,000 Iowans who live in rural areas — outside of cities or towns — in the six Iowa counties that are in the flood zone.

“If they have vehicles or farm equipment that are out there, or anhydrous tanks, they need to be moving them to higher ground so they’re not floating down river,” Hill said. Propane tanks also need to be tethered down or moved out of the flood zone.

Listen to Hill talk with reporters: June5briefing