Missouri River floodwaters are expected to reach the small southwest Iowa town of Hamburg later today. The rushing water has been approaching through farm fields after a levee breach along the river Monday morning. Dave Ray, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has nearly lost his voice from spending the past two weeks talking over the sounds of earth-moving equipment.
Ray is overseeing construction of another temporary levee closer to Hamburg. “They’re raising up another three feet from the original design. They’ve got good clay material close to the site, so that cuts down on haul distance and time,” Ray said. The temporary levee has been built over the past two weeks. If it fails, officials predict much of Hamburg could be covered by up to 10 feet of water for months.
“We’ve got every confidence that we’ll get where we’re ahead of it enough to stop the water from coming into Hamburg and flooding the area,” Ray said. Others in town aren’t quite as confident the levee will hold. Nathan Beach, 22, is a college student in Lincoln, Nebraska. He has fond memories of the town he visited as a child growing up in Cedar Rapids.
“I’m here to visit Hamburg because I think it might be flooding soon and I want to see the place where I came as child. My grandparents used to live here and my grandfather had a watch shop here,” Beach said. “So, I want to visit the town and see where their house used to be…see it before it all got inundated.”
Around half of Hamburg’s 1,100 residents have already left town, but many people who’s homes are safe are helping fill sandbags at the elementary school. Rosie Callahan traveled across the river from Nebraska. “I live in Nebraska City, but I come over here to Hamburg to church,” Callahan said. “So, I feel like I’m at home in Hamburg.”
Governor Branstad and Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division (HSEMD) Administrator Derek Hill are scheduled to visit Hamburg this evening. The Iowa Department of Transportation is reporting the flooding will force the closure of Interstate 29 soon.
The closure will extend nearly 20 miles from exit 10 (Iowa Highway 2) to the U.S. 136 interchange near Rock Port, Missouri.