More Iowa cities mobilizing for flooding along river

Associated Press

Des Moines, Iowa — Authorities in several Iowa cities were mobilizing resources Friday to handle flooding from a rain-swollen river that has forced evacuations in several communities upstream, while a Wisconsin town was recovering from storms now blamed for two deaths.

More rain fell Thursday night and early Friday in the area, and the National Weather Service said the threat for more rain and flash-flooding remained high along the Cedar River in northeastern Iowa.

Just across the Mississippi River in Wisconsin, residents of Victory, a tiny community at the base of a river bluff, were recovering from torrential rains, flooding and mudslides that caused two deaths.

Vernon County sheriff’s officials said Friday that floodwaters filled 79-year-old Joseph Menne’s pickup truck when the trailer he was pulling got stuck in 6 feet of water. Menne was reported missing about 7 p.m. Thursday, and his body was found about two hours later.

Authorities said another resident, 53-year-old Michael McDonald, died Thursday after his house slid down the side of a bluff and onto state Highway 35.

“In my 33 years in Vernon County law enforcement, this is the worst I’ve ever seen,” Sheriff John Spears said at the site of the Victory cleanup. “This has been devastating.”

In Iowa, Cedar Falls officials have been talking to residents about possibly evacuating low-lying neighborhoods. The dike system protecting downtown was expected to hold, but Public Safety Director Jeff Olson said it will be patrolled. The Cedar River was expected to crest in the area Saturday afternoon, at about 2 feet below the record crest of 102.1 feet in June 2008.

Waterloo has closed several storm sewer floodgates, activated lift stations and put up flood control walls at several spots downtown. Several downtown bridges may close, and the fire department has been lining up extra boats for water rescues.

Portable dams, barriers and pumps were being deployed around Cedar Rapids, where the river was expected to crest Monday at about 7 feet below the June 2008 crest of 31 feet. But even at the lower level, street flooding was expected in several areas, including the downtown core.

“We’re very concerned about the downtown,” said Mike Goldberg, director of Linn County Emergency Management.

Another eastern Iowa river, the Shell Rock, also has forced evacuations as it left its banks. Clarksville Police Chief Barry Mackey said that on Thursday night, water overtopped the levee that runs down the east side of the Shell Rock River, just west of the Butler County community of about 1,400 people. Several homes were surrounded by water, including his, Mackey said.