Government

Gov. Reynolds surveys flooding disaster in Davenport

HESCO says flooding not the fault of its barriers

Mississippi River floodwaters surround buildings in downtown Davenport on Friday, as shown in this aerial photograph. Shown is the Figge Art Museum and the SkyBridge. (Kevin Schmidt, Quad-City Times_
Mississippi River floodwaters surround buildings in downtown Davenport on Friday, as shown in this aerial photograph. Shown is the Figge Art Museum and the SkyBridge. (Kevin Schmidt, Quad-City Times_
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DAVENPORT — Gov. Kim Reynolds toured the disaster site that is downtown Davenport on Friday, calling the scene “devastating” and pledging continued state assistance to help rebuild areas ravaged by the city’s worst flooding event in history.

Sporting a pair of yellow boots and a safety vest, the governor walked through the floodwaters to survey the damage alongside other elected officials, including Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch and U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack. Within her view were nearly a dozen vehicles submerged by water and several closed-up businesses.

The governor heard accounts from a handful of business owners, listening to their descriptions of how the water seemed to rush in all at once and overwhelm them.

Among them was Scott Lehnert, one of the owners of Great River Brewery, where customers were still sipping beers at the bar when the temporary flood barriers broke, giving way to the mighty Mississippi River on Tuesday.

“We thought we’d finished preparing what we needed to do,” said Lehnert, who’d placed sandbags around his business following a warning Tuesday from the city. “In hindsight, I mean I wish I would’ve gotten some of my equipment out of the building, gotten some of our … supplies up higher.”

“It was just too late,” he added.

Officials say the flooding in Davenport has surpassed the city’s historic 1993 event in terms of height and duration.

Earlier this week, temporary HESCO barriers that had held the river back for more than one month failed, prompting local officials to frantically begin evacuation of residences and businesses in the heart of downtown.

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Speaking to reporters, the governor commended the “herculean effort” of local officials and emergency personnel who responded. And she pointed to Iowans as “resilient people.”

“I’ve seen it over and over as I’ve been on the western side of the state, as I dealt with tornadoes early on and the devastation from them and now the impact over here,” she said.

Reynolds said Iowa is asking that federal officials keep the state’s federal disaster declaration open, given the continued risk of flooding.

Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management officials said damage estimates need to be tallied before federal assistance becomes available to Davenport.

HESCO, the company that makes the temporary barriers used by Davenport, said Friday its internal investigators have found the breach that led to the downtown flooding was not caused by a “structural fault of the barrier.”

Either flood conditions caused the road surface beneath the barrier to give way or the river’s crest went above the height of the barrier, the company said.

HESCO — whose barriers protected Cedar Rapids in September 2016 Cedar River flooding — is working with city officials and sent one of its technical experts to the area, the company added.

The Iowa National Guard is assisting Davenport city officials in sandbagging around vulnerable neighborhoods.

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The National Weather Service is warning Davenport of more rain — 1 to 4 inches early next week.

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