Record high water marks are being set in the northwest Iowa town of Rock Valley, where heavy storms dumped up to 5 inches of rain and brought severe flooding Monday.
Rock Valley city administrator Tom Van Maanen says a big debt of gratitude is owed to the many volunteer sandbaggers who put forth a tremendous effort. “We want to thank not only our community that really stepped up but our whole area,” Van Maanen says. “There were people from Sioux Center, Orange City, Hall and all of the Sioux County towns and farther out than that. They came flooding in when we requested the help. We would have had a lot worse damage here in Rock Valley if it wasn’t for all their help.”
The Rock River peaked around 11 feet over flood stage, exceeding levels set during the flood of 1993. Van Maanen says river levels are beginning to fall. “We have seen the level go down from the crest and we’re hopeful to see that continue,” he says. “Based on the river gauges at Rock Rapids, we’re pretty confident that we have seen the crest and we should see a slow decline now in the river elevation here in Rock Valley.”
There is no dollar estimate on the damage in the Sioux County town, but Van Maanen says it will be sizeable. “Probably 150 homes with water in the basements,” Van Maanen says. “We’re going to need volunteers in the coming days to help them. Most of them, volunteers were able to help them move stuff out of basements before it hit. You get sewer backup along with all of this and we’ve got a big job ahead of us for the cleanup.”
He says the sewer plant is still taking in about four-thousand gallons every minute, which is more than can be processed, so he’s pleading with residents to drastically limit their water usage. Just to the southwest of Rock Valley, Hawarden Mayor Ric Porter says his community was a little more fortunate in keeing the Big Sioux River at bay on Tuesday afternoon, though there’s still damage. “Probably 15 to 20 homes on the west side were impacted with water,” Mayor Porter says. “Some of their basements are filled, some of their lower levels are three to four feet of water in them. We’re certainly not totally blessed with no problems but the impact hasn’t been overly significant to the total community.”
Porter, too, says he’s very thankful for all of the 300-plus volunteers who helped sandbag, like the entire Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn High School softball team. “We certainly appreciate all of the folks who called and came over from neighboring communities and businesses that sent pickups and trailers and people,” Porter says. “It’s always heartwarming to see people turn out and assist others that they don’t know.”
Community leaders across the region say they’re still fearful though as more rain is in the forecast.
(Reporting by Doug Broek, KSOU, Sioux Center)