Braley visits Marshalltown to witness flood damage

Although heavy rains forecasted for Marshalltown did not arrive Thursday as anticipated, city and county officials are still left scrambling to deal with issues created by extensive flooding.

Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, visited Marshalltown for an update on the extent of the damage so he and his staff have a clear picture of the flood’s reach should tax dollars become available to fund disaster relief. Various department heads gave Braley a portrait of the issues facing the area.

“I have seen a lot of rains, but I have never seen water flow through the streets like rivers,” said Kim Elder, Marshall County emergency management director.

Randy Wetmore, city administrator, said public works crews have seen holes in sewer system intakes, and roads that have continually been opened and closed due to flooding will need repairs.

“It’s just been so much water,” he said. “The system can’t keep up.”

Lynn Couch, public works director, said in order to repair many of the roads and use pumps to clear water, crews must move along the top of the levees, which flood water has softened considerably.

Much of the damage is still unknown, many said, and will remain unknown until waters recede.

“Some of these problems are long-term problems,” said Mayor Tommy Thompson.

According to the National Weather Service, Marshalltown received more than 8 inches above the normal rainfall in the past week. Rains since Sunday pushed the precipitation total for the month up to 15.75 inches, 11.89 inches above average.

Elder said the flood hit Albion hardest, causing a landslide.

“They’ve got a huge mess,” she said.

Braley said his staff has done a county-by-county breakdown and will continue to work to ensure the necessary money becomes available should the federal government declare the flooding a disaster. In the meantime, he said they will work with local agencies to ensure flood victims know what means are available to them in the interim.

“We are here to be a resource to you, pushing for prompt response,” Braley said. “[I have learned] pretty fast that this is some of the most important work you do.”

Efforts like the Water Resources Development Act, which the Senate passed earlier this month, strive to provide federal money to flood prevention and dam and levee projects, Braley said. Sewer systems are essential infrastructure, and many of them are aging and unable to keep up with flood-level rains.

Deane Adams, county supervisor, said four bridges will need extensive work throughout the county, and water and gas mains as well as high-density wire running beneath them will likely make construction difficult.

Gov. Terry Branstad declared Marshall and 13 other counties disaster areas Tuesday, but the federal government has not done so, making Federal Emergency Management Agency money unavailable.