Flooding causes problems across Eastern Iowa

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Not again. Please, not again.

You could hear the collective plea going up around Eastern Iowa on Thursday, as a stalled, sodden weather system caused widespread flash flooding in Linn and surrounding counties.

The system moved out of the state Thursday night, but not without leaving some flooded basements and streets and some worried people behind. Rain is possible again Friday, though not like the past three days.

Indian Creek, which winds through Marion and Cedar Rapids, was of particular concern Thursday night as it continued to rise. Tiger dams, placed along the creek on Wednesday, were overcome by the rushing waters Thursday afternoon.

In Palo — decimated by the June 2008 flood — residents were once again sandbagging, but this time along Dry Creek, which flows into the Cedar River. Torrents of water were running down roads, above the wheels of some parked cars. No homes flooded, though about 20 homes had water in their basements.

In Central City, classes are canceled Friday as the school is cleaned after water ran into the building.

In Shellsburg, residents and volunteer firefighters were piling sandbags around an Alliant Energy substation to protect the city’s power supply from the flooding Wildcat Creek. One weather spotter reported 13 inches of rain fell on that Benton County city from Tuesday through Thursday.

In Anamosa, residents of an apartment building on Division Street were evacuating after water started coming up through toilets and floor drains on the lower level. Water closed Highway 151 between Anamosa and Monticello.

The Eastern Iowa Airport recorded 5.4 inches of rain between midnight and 4 p.m., but many locations saw much heavier, concentrated downpours.

At 4 p.m. Thursday, a Central City spotter reported 6 inches of rain in 24 hours, and a Hiawatha spotter recorded 8 inches. One near Van Horne in Benton County recorded 1.47 inches in 45 minutes Thursday afternoon.

It was wet, but no one was injured.

See photos

Flood warning for Wapsipinicon River in Anamosa

A flood warning has been issued for the Wapsipinicon River near Anamosa affecting Jones and Linn counties, according to the National Weather Service.

The river is rising so fast, the weather service says, around the Anamosa area that there is no time to prepare. Individuals should move to higher ground immediately. The warning is in place until Friday evening

The weather service says this is a dangerous to life threatening situation. Moderate flooding is occurring now and major flooding is forecast. At 4:15 p.m. today the river was at 15.8 feet. It is expected to rise to 20 feet Friday morning.

Flooding on Indian Creek near Outback Steakhouse in Cedar Rapids

As Indian Creek flowed out of its banks along 40th Street Drive SE in Cedar Rapids, Spike Edwards waited for his kids to show up after school while across the street Shawn Stewart relied on his mother’s help to sandbag his garage.

“We’ve seen it like this three times now,” said Edwards, who has lived the past dozen years at the lowest part of the neighborhood at 4001 Charter Oak Street SE. He explained that a tributary to Indian Creek contributes to the flooding but added that his sump pump had not yet kicked in late Thursday afternoon.

Stewart, however, wasn’t taking any chances at 302 40th Street SE, as his mother, Ellen, helped him place sandbags in front of his garage as well as inside it along the wall to the house.

“This is the second time in two years,” Stewart said about flooding around his home of the last 3 ½ years. “It happened once, we didn’t think it would happen again, at least not so soon.

“I know how it flooded last year,” he added. “If we can stop it here, we can keep it out so water doesn’t get in the house.”

“We’ve had some worried nights,” added Stephanie Martinez of 301 40th Street Drive SE, who held a blue umbrella above her head as she watched the rapidly flowing Indian Creek. “It’s becoming a tourist attraction now, every time it rains.”

The creek is threatening the Sun Valley subdivision in southeast Cedar Rapids, and the water’s still rising, said Supervisor Linda Langston, who lives in the neighborhood.

“The tiger dam just blew,” Langston said. “The river water just took them and moved them. The water is just flowing in all directions.”

Video of tiger dams

Water is six inches from one house, Langston said. Everyone in the neighborhood has moved their cars out.

“Our street is very quickly going under,” Langston said. “There is serious current here."

Indian Creek jumped out of its banks in 2002 and damaged 45 homes, including several along Sunland Court SE.

“This is unfortunately a lot like what happened in ‘02,” she said.

In Marion, Indian Creek put the Linn-Mar High School football field underwater. The Azure and Wexford Apartments, near Boyson Road and 10th Street, were surrounded by water, keeping most residents away from their homes. Central Avenue had water 4 feet deep running down it at one point.


The city of Marion was hit hard by flash flooding. Crews filled sandbags at First United Methodist Church.

Many Marion streets were closed Thursday, including 10th Street at Indian Creek Road; Indian Creek Road at 35th Avenue; and 29th Ave between 50th Street and Highway 13.

The Indian Creek Nature Center was surrounded by water.

See video of flooding at Linn-Mar's Armstrong Field in Marion


The City of Palo used volunteers to help fill sandbags Thursday. The city asked residents to reduce water usage and plug their floor sewer drains due to the sewer system being over capacity.

The Linn County Emergency Mobile Command Center was deployed to Palo City Hall to assist with coordination of flood response.

Jones County

The Jones County supervisors met in special session at 4 p.m. Thursday to declare a state of emergency.

“We’re right in the middle of the fight,” Jones County Emergency Management Coordinator Brenda Leonard said, noting a flood-control wall had collapsed in Anamosa.

The Wapsipinicon River is expected to crest early Friday at 20 feet. Flood stage is 14 feet.

Pam Perdios, 61, was called while working at Wal-Mart and told her four-plex apartment building on Division Street was flooding.

“I wanted out of work early,” she joked as she moved her belongings onto a trailer with help from her fiance and others. She plans to marry Wayne Oltman on Sept. 12, and her furniture and household items were headed to his place.

Other residents on Division Street reported water in their basements but weren’t told to evacuate.

Crews were dumping sand on the side of County Road E-34 — along backwaters of the Wapsipinicon River — to protect an apartment complex and business that flooded in June 2008. Mayor John Hatcher said the water was rising 1 foot every hour.

“We don’t have time to sandbag,” he said.

Monticello residents were told to conserve water, and Langworthy was isolated as roads washed out. About 3,400 Alliant Energy customers in Jones County were without power, but company spokeswoman Nancy Craig said the system was holding up elsewhere.


The lights are still on in Shellsburg, thanks to a massive sandbagging effort.

"We're trying to sandbag it to keep the water out. If the power station goes out, the town loses power," said Brad Leichsenring with the Shellsburg Fire Department.

Wildcat Creek in Shellsburg went wild, and sandbaggers had to build a wall to protect an Alliant Energy substation.

Water also flooded basements, including that of one woman who moved to Shellsburg from Cedar Rapids after last year's flood.

"They say it never does this in Shellsburg, and we decided to buy a house on a hill and now we're dealing with a flooded basement," said resident Shannon Gardemann.

Water also made it over the downtown bridge in Shellsburg, closing the bridge.

Benton County

Prairie Creek in Benton County was out of its banks Thursday and estimated to be 70 feet wide in spots. 

Central City

Students in Central City spent their second day of class clearing water out of the school. School is canceled Friday while the building is cleaned.

Matt Weis, head football coach, said the water rushed into the school from farm fields, not the Wapsipinicon River, which runs through town.

“This is the best second day of school I’ve had in years,” said freshman Skyler Matthias, 14, who was in math class when told he needed to move his car, which sat in one foot of water.

Students helped clean out the old gymnasium, which was saturated with several inches of water. Carpet was drenched in the fourth-through-sixth-grade side of the school.

Weis said students were able to keep the water from encroaching on the new gym, which has not yet been used.

“This all happened within a matter of 30 minutes,” he said of the damage on one side of the building.

The new high school, which opened in 2007, also stayed dry.

Linn County offices

Board of Supervisor offices at Linn County West took on water Thursday when flash flooding hit several towns around Eastern Iowa.

The worst was in the offices of Supervisors Jim Houser, Lu Barron and Linda Langston, and in court facilities on the northeast side of the old Steve & Barry's store, where county offices are located.

Auditor Joel Miller said the roof is leaking in some places, but the soaked carpets in the Treasurer's Office, Supervisor offices and court facilities was caused by poor landscaping next to the building and ground saturation.

"It's coming in through the foundation," said Miller, who oversees facilities for the county. "The stuff that's majorly soaked is coming through the ground."


In Walker, the creek that runs through the east part of town and the one that swings around the west side have both jumped completely out of their banks. Several homes have sewage or creek water in their basements.

"I'm trying to get to the bottom of that right now," Mayor Matt Meisheid said.

People are using pumps, but "there's not much you can do when it rains like this," Meisheid said.

The rain stopped and both creeks are dropping rapidly, Meisheid said.

Big picture

The stalled, sodden weather system that brought widespread flash flooding to Linn and surrounding counties lumbered off to the southeast Thursday night, leaving behind flooded basements, streets, and some entire neighborhoods.

The Eastern Iowa Airport recorded 4.4 inches of rain between midnight and 4 p.m., Zenner said, but many locations saw much heavier, concentrated downpours: At 4 p.m., a Central City spotter reported 6 inches of rain in 24 hours, and one near Van Horne saw 1.47 inches fall in 45 minutes Thursday afternoon.

Things could change, but the weather service isn’t predicting severe flooding along the region’s major rivers, but residents along the Cedar downstream from Linn County should be aware of its level as it absorbed runoff from tributaries and farmland.


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