Some of the heaviest damage from last week’s flooding occurred in rural areas of Iowa – with millions of dollars in damage to gravel roads and bridges. In northeast Iowa, Buchanan County Engineer Brian Keierleber initially estimated water washed over rural roadways in 40 locations across the county.
“Upon getting more detailed information back, we’ve identified 61 places where the water overtopped the road and caused scour problems,” Keierleber said. “The water was significant enough that it crossed over four-lane Highway 20 and washed a semi off the road.”
Two bridges will need replaced in rural Buchanan County, while five others will need repairs. Keierleber doesn’t have a dollar estimate on the damage just yet, but repairing the gravel roads alone will be costly.
“In the 60 locations, each one will require one or more truckloads of rock and that’s going to require a significant amount of money,” Keierleber said. In northwest Iowa, perhaps the worst flooding damage occurred in Cherokee County. David Shanahan, the Cherokee County Engineer, estimates the damage there will exceed $2.4 million.
“We have two bridges that are washed out and two that are going to require significant repair to get them back into service,” Shanahan said. In addition, repairs will be needed around 125 other bridges in Cherokee County due to loss of sediment.
“The biggest problem is (the floodwaters) washed the banks back so far that the channels are now wider than the bridges,” Shanahan said. “Getting back and stabilizing the abutment walls is going to take a lot of time and effort.” The damage to rural roads comes at a time when farmers are rushing to finish spring planting. Some farmers are having to make longer treks to get into their fields.
At the worst point of the flooding in Cherokee County, there were over 30 rural roads closed by barricades. Shanahan said that number of impassable roads is now down to around 12. This has been the wettest spring in Iowa history, with record rainfall totals in both April and May. Sections of Wapello County in southeast Iowa received six inches of rain in one event in April.
Wapello County Engineer Brian Moore said flash flooding from that storm caused at least $500,000 in damage. Last week’s flooding brought more damage. “We had a road wash out behind a bridge and we had a culvert on a (paved road) collapse. We’re probably looking at another $150,000 (in damages) from last week’s rain event,” Moore said. Many county officials in Iowa are now hoping for federal disaster dollars to help cover the bills.
“Budgets are always tight, so we’ll have to maybe cut back on a few things or hopefully we’ll get the FEMA declaration and that will help us with the repairs,” Moore said.