Residents of the southwest Iowa town of Hamburg who were ordered to leave their homes two months ago are now being allowed to return. Hamburg Fire Chief Dan Sturm says a levee that’s holding back Missouri River floodwaters has “stood the test of time.” But, Sturm is advising residents against moving everything back into their homes. Instead, they should only take necessities.

There’s still 4 to 5 feet of water up against the levee and the water covers thousands of acres of farm land. “Until that’s down and gone…there’s still a danger there,” Sturm said. “But, we felt comfortable with the integrity of the levee and the way its held with no leaks. So, we felt it was time to start letting people come back in if they felt like doing so.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to begin decreasing releases from upstream reservoirs next week, but the floodwaters are expected to remain through late September or early October. Around 31 families and six businesses in Hamburg were placed under a mandatory evacuation in early June. Sturm believes everyone will all return.

“I certainly hope so. I think most of them will. Some of them are opting not to move in at this time, just because they realize there’s still water there. There’s still a danger, so they’re just waiting,” Sturm said. Crews continue to work on protecting the levee. Sturm says they recently replaced the plastic that covers the structure to battle erosion.

He says a wind storm over the weekend, with 60-plus mile an hour winds, knocked over trees and power lines and ripped some of the new plastic from the levee. “That’s been one of the trouble spots – keeping the plastic on there,” Sturm said. If the levee failed, the lower portion of Hamburg would be buried under up to 10 feet of standing water.