Heavy rains, flash flooding storm through the area
By Trudy Balcom and Shiela Tompkins
A series of slow-moving storms that hit the area on June 21-22, dropped as much as eight inches of rain across Allamakee and Crawford counties, and five inches across much of Clayton County, sending creeks and rivers over their banks, damaging many streets and roads and filling basements.
The worst damage occurred in Waukon, where downtown streets flooded when storm sewers were overwhelmed. Downtown businesses there were soaked with more than a foot of water, and cars flooded. Homes and basements were also flooded in low-lying areas in the city.
Creek and riverside campgrounds became evacuation zones at Yellow River Forest, Scenic View, Paradise Valley, Bloody Run and Spook Cave.
A woman trying to escape the flooding in her car drove into the roaring Little Paint Creek. “The car which was swept under the bridge Saturday, is now washed away. We can’t find it,” said Park Ranger Rylan Retallick in an Iowa DNR press release. The driver of that car escaped through its sunroof to safety, before trees, other debris and flood water twisted it under the pedestrian/snowmobile bridge at the park. Campers at Scenic View Campground on the Yellow River on Old Sixteen Road. were roused in the wee hours of Sunday morning and evacuated. Flooding on Bloody Run Creek at Spook Cave Campground caused a temporary closure of cave tours and the low-lying areas of the campground, but no serious damage. “We’re not as bad as some, but we still have a lot of clean-up,” said Paula Rasmussen, who owns the campground along with her husband, Paul.
At Effigy Mounds, a fallen tree closed the Yellow River Bridge Trail. Park Superintendent Jim Nepstad said the Yellow River was “roaring” under the bridge trail, which usually functions as a slow backwater. The trail has so far survived damage from floating debris. The Clayton County Conservation Board closed Bloody Run Park at Marquette, but no further details were available at press time.
Paradise Valley Campground on Sny Magill Creek also sustained heavy flood damage. The road to Sny Magill boat landing was still flooded Monday morning.
In Marquette, city crews were out over the weekend cleaning up debris on city streets, but there was no major damage. The city’s extensive, new stormwater infrastructure appeared to be working as designed.
In McGregor, there were some problems with washed and rutted roads at McGregor Heights, and city crews cleared a slide that occurred on the Great River Road between towns. The city’s main storm sewer channel was running with as much as six to eight feet of water over the weekend, according to Public Works Director Brian Hamman. “We held up pretty good, but I don’t think we can take much more,” he said.
The Turkey River rose quickly on Saturday, and residents in the Garber area once again rose to the challenge by sandbagging to protect property. The river crested there at approximately 27.18 feet Saturday (flood stage is 17 feet and major flood stage is 23 feet) and then began to drop rapidly. County road C7X to Colesburg was closed for a time due to water over the highway.
Many county secondary roads saw major damage with washouts, mudslides and fallen trees blocking roadways. There were also scattered power outages caused by fallen trees. Many homeowners in both rural areas and communities dealt with flooded basements.
The causeway road to Abel and Esmann Island at Guttenberg was under water for a time on Saturday, and flash flooding on Buck Creek to the north threatened the railroad bridge there.
Clayton County Engineer Rafe Koopman on Monday said that the secondary roads department was still responding to calls. “I know of two bridges that are not usable and we are still doing assessments on other bridges,” he said.
The bridge that was recently repaired at the Kraus crossing north of Osterdock was opened earlier than planned, said Koopman, in order to allow residents access when other routes were blocked. “We also wanted to use those barricades,” he said. “We ran out of them to block roads that were flooded or impassable.”
On Monday morning, county crews were still doing assessments and trying to get everyone access. The forecast, however, had Koopman concerned. “We are still under flash flood watches with the potential for more heavy rain,” he noted, citing the concern that repairs done Monday could easily be washed out again.
“Everybody is pretty cooperative and patient,” he said, but he urged residents to call with any concerns in order to keep his department informed.
With swollen rivers and streams to the north emptying into the Mississippi River, the water was expected to slowly rise to a crest of approximately 17 feet at McGregor on Thursday, June 27, and hold steady before falling later in the week. That prediction was made by the National Weather Service Monday morning, taking into account precipitation expected within the coming 24 hours. Flood threat continues
According to the National Weather Service, the threat for flooding on smaller rivers and streams was expected to continue through mid-week, with an additional 1-3 inches of rain expected in the area through Tuesday.