Flash flooding forced officials to issue a voluntary evacuation order Monday for the northeast Iowa town of New Hartford, but very few people fled their homes. The area’s most famous resident, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, says the Butler County town was inundated by flooding nearly five years ago so they’re very wary, especially with more rain in the forecast.
“Nobody’s taking any chances so there’s a lot of sandbagging, a lot of people moving things around so in case they have to evacuate, they can,” Grassley says. “The river peaked yesterday afternoon and is about six inches below where it was 24 hours ago.”
Grassley owns 750 acres of farmland in Grundy County, just south of New Hartford, which he shares with one of his sons. He says they still have some crops to plant, but the ground is very wet after heavy rain all through the holiday weekend.
“Maybe about a tenth of it is in an area that can flood and probably some damage there,” Grassley says. “New Hartford, a few years ago put a berm around the town and that has helped considerably. There is some water in town.”
Beaver Creek, just west of town, topped its banks and reached more than four feet above flood stage on Monday, which Grassley says is in great contrast to a few months ago. “You’d never know that last year we had a drought,” Grassley says.
“There was worry all winter long, would we ever recover? I think even northwest Iowa has recovered now, their subsurface water.” The flooding in June of 2008 forced all 650 residents of New Hartford to evacuate and they couldn’t return for more than a week.
Hundreds of homes were damaged while a number of homes and businesses were destroyed by the high water.