Flooding remains mostly moderate in eastern Iowa

DAVENPORT – Residents and officials in much of eastern Iowa were filling sandbags and testing water pumps Saturday as the region’s rivers and other tributaries continued to rise.

Most of those tributaries are expected to crest in the coming days, but officials said the waters’ rise was slower and less urgent than expected by Saturday, thanks to lighter rain in recent days.

“We were predicting up to an inch, and got about a half-inch,” said Tom Olsen, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Davenport. “That helped bring those waters down more than we expected.”

Flood warnings remained in effect for much of the area until next week. Some areas – such as Iowa City and Burlington – are expected to see more flooding in the coming days as water in swollen tributaries moves downstream.

At Iowa City, the Iowa River was at just over 24 feet on Saturday, causing moderate flooding. But Olsen said the river is expected to crest at nearly 25.5 feet by Tuesday, causing some major flooding.

“At that stage, you’ll see flooding in Coralville,” Olsen said. “And our model says water will inundate the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City rail lines near Coralville.”

The Mississippi River at Burlington has already surpassed the major flood stage of 18 feet, measured at 19.29 feet on Saturday. It’s expected to crest at 20.8 feet late Wednesday, Olsen said.

The forecast held good news for the state, as mostly clear skies are expected through Wednesday, he said.

The flooding has been far below 2008 levels that sent floodwaters into homes and businesses across the region. But the memory of that devastating flooding has made residents vigilant in preparing for the next, said Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management spokesman John Benson.

“It appears that a lot of the locals are very well prepared to address any of the flooding they’re going to see,” Benson said Saturday. “We’re starting to see some more sandbagging taking place in that southeastern corner of the state. You’re starting to see pump capacity put into place for drainage basins to help empty those out. So kind of the standard flood response things.”

So far, flooding has done little more than swamp some basements and low-lying areas, he said. By Saturday, some rural areas had been evacuated in Johnson County near the Iowa River, he said.

Gov. Terry Branstad planned to tour flooded areas in New Hartford, Coralville and Iowa City on Monday. He also issued a disaster proclamation for 17 additional Iowa counties hit by recent storms and flooding – his forth such proclamation is the last several days.