Towns along Wapsi River breathe a sigh of relief after forecast change

The town no longer needs sandbagging volunteers

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City and county officials along the Wapsi River say they're feeling more optimistic following an updated forecast Thursday.

Though the National Weather Service initially predicted the Wapsinipicon River would crest at a record 27 feet on Friday, an updated forecast Thursday afternoon indicated flooding may not be as bad as initially anticipated, with the river cresting around 22 feet on Friday, and falling below flood level, which is 14 feet, by Monday.

Ron French, Anamosa assistant fire chief, said the town felt prepared for flooding Thursday morning, adding it didn't appear the water had risen much since about 11 p.m. Wednesday night.

"It hasn’t changed our efforts," French said. "We’re kind of in good shape."

French said they completed the dike along E34 in Anamosa around 9:30 Thursday morning, and if river levels go as predicted they will hardly reach halfway up the structure. He said the town is no longer looking for volunteers to fill sandbags and, if they don't use them, they'll pass their extras on to other towns down the road like Olin.

"All is well, we're just going to be watching the river and seeing what it does," French said.

He said E34 will remain closed through the weekend near Wapsipinicon State Park and Tapken's Conevenience Plus until volunteers are able to do some cleanup.

Brenda Leonard, emergency management coordinator for Jones County, said no residential homes or major buildings had been significantly damaged by floodwaters throughout the county, but there was likely some flooding in basements from groundwater.

She said towns along the river will continue to sandbag, and the county had received pumps from the state to keep sewer systems going in Olin and Oxford Junction, though they hadn't had any failures yet.

A flood warning also remained in effect for Buchanan at Independence Thursday afternoon, where the National Weather Service reported the river level was falling Thursday. Rick Wulfekuhle, emergency management coordinator for Buchanan County, said the water levels near Independence topped out at 13.42 feet and is now receding. Flood level is at 12 feet, and some low-lying streets were affected.

Wulfekuhle said the county sent three Dump trucks-worth of sandbags down to Anamosa Thursday afternoon because they were no longer needed in Independence. He added that about 24 residences and 8 to 10 businesses were affected by flooding — with water in basements and sewer back up — though the damages are expected to be minor.

As of Thursday afternoon, Wulfekuhle said no injuries had been reported, and there was one request for a rescue effort, in Quasqueton that involved a person being stuck at a home, which was surrounded with water.

The Weather Service initially predicted Independence would experience a record, 24-foot crest Wednesday, and, officials said that leveled off quickly because the rain early Wednesday morning fell directly over the river basin, rather than the watershed.

Though Wulfekuhle said some people were confused and frustrated as to why the forecast changed so drastically, he said he would always prefer to be over-prepared.

"I would rather be prepared, I know it's a little bit of a hassle, but being prepared is still way better to keep people safe than a situation where we aren't ready," Wulfekuhle said. " As frustrating as it is, at least people were ready for it and reacted well.

The following roads remain closed in Buchanan County:

- W35 south of Quasqueton between 290th and 300th streets.

- Quonset Avenue between 290th and 310th streets.

- 232nd Street between Nelson and Plymouth avenues.

- 310th Street between Vincent and Washington avenues

- Washington Avenue between 260th and 270th streets.

- 250th Street from Quasqueton Diagonal to Pine Creek Avenue.

- Highway 150 south of Independence remains closed at the construction site. Travelers are also advised to avoid using gravel roads as alternate routes.


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