BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Heavy rains early this week have pushed already swollen local rivers over their banks, but a crest is predicted for early Friday morning on the Mississippi and then waters are expected to begin to recede.
Larry Driscoll, Fort Madison’s city Public Works director was on the scene at the Riverview Park pavillion Wednesday morning assessing the situation.
Driscoll said the most up-to-date information he has is that the river will crest tomorrow, pending any additional rainfall, and then drop quickly.
“We’re supposed to crest tomorrow and then they say we’re supposed to drop three feet in two days if we don’t get any more significant rainfall,” Driscoll said.
This morning city crews and a handful of volunteers shored up the CB&Q museum building, and additional city crews were dumping truckloads of sand at the city’s waste water treatment facility.
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“We put out a request and had about 10 show up this morning and so we did CB&Q. And then the waste water treatment plant has a lot of of work being done over there right now,” Driscoll said.
“The problem is we just don’t know what to do when it seems like the river’s not going down. It seems to be staying above 18 feet and it’s been that way since last fall. If would get back down to the average of 15 feet, then we wouldn’t flood like this, but it’s been up since September of last year and now we get this,” he said.
He said the city’s received 4.5″ of rain in the last three days pushing the river up to railroad tracks and backing up storm water. With the recent snow this week in northern Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, it’s still a bit iffy when things will start to get back to normal.
Lee County Supervisors issued a declaration of emergency Wednesday afternoon, which opened up limited federal resources. Lee County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Steve Cirinna said the majority of the resources are for sandbags
“Technically, it’s anything we can get from the state,” he said. “The main thing is usually sandbags and we get that for critical infrastructure only, but not for general public. We asked for a FEMA declaration but you have to get to a certain amount of damage and we aren’t close to that yet.”
Cirinna said the Iowa Individual Assistance program could also be accessed by that’s to assist families that are 200% or below federal poverty limit. The program makes $5,000 grants available to homeowners.
“But we haven’t asked to turn that on. We only have a 45-day window and once we start seeing damage, we’ll get that done. I don’t want to do that prematurely and then people not have a chance to use it.”
According to National Weather Service data, Burlington is predicted to crest at 23.2 feet and Keokuk at 23.8 between midnight and 1 a.m. Friday. and then back under 21 feet by 1 p.m. Tuesday.
As long as we don’t get significant rain it should go down rather quickly. But its all dependent on the rain. We’re supposed to get some tonight, but not a lot, maybe 1/4 inch or so,” Cirinna said
Great River Plumbing at the corner of 14th and Avenue M is completely surrounded by water. General Manager Ron Walker is hoping that the predicted crests hold true.
“At a foot that should buy us a couple more days to see what happens over the weekend,” Walker said.
He said it’s not just the swelling of the river that’s causing problems.
“It’s not just the river. There’s no storm water drainage because those are backed up too, so not only are we getting the flood waters, but anymore rain has nowhere else to go,” he said.
If waters get above the crest level, Walker’s afraid they will have to move equipment out of the building and then re-establish online communications which can be difficult in smaller businesses.
“Right now we’re gonna watch it and see what happens tomorrow. Some are calling for rain all day tomorrow and then a couple days with no rain Sunday -Tuesday. Our biggest thing is that the storm sewer has no place to go,” Walker said.
The buiding is 100% surrounded and the water’s a couple inches deep.”