Floodwaters miss Independence, river rising in Anamosa

DES MOINES – Volunteers in Anamosa prepared sandbags Thursday as the Wapsipinicon River was expected to flood but fall short of an earlier prediction of a near-record high.

River forecasters predicted a 22.6-foot crest Friday afternoon, significantly below earlier expectations of 26 feet – which would have fallen just shy of the 2008 record.

Still, the river was well above its 14-foot flood stage at 21.2 feet Thursday.

Volunteers placed sandbags at the water treatment plant, manholes and homes, said Brenda Leonard, the Jones County emergency management coordinator. She expected downstream communities of Oxford Junction and Olin to take see flooding and many homes have been sandbagged as a precaution.

Most flooding will likely be in basements, she said.

“Hopefully it won’t get into homes. Everybody’s sandbagging like crazy,” she said.

Linn County Fair organizers canceled or moved events in Central City after Wednesday, the first day of the fair. The Wapsipinicon runs east of the fairgrounds.

A 12-year-old boy was rescued from the river northwest of Central City at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Linn County Sheriff’s office said. The boy waded into the river but couldn’t get back to shore because of the swift current. A county conservation officer brought a boat and the boy was plucked from the river and taken to safety.

The behavior of the Wapsipinicon upstream at Independence baffled National Weather Service flood forecasters because it didn’t rise as expected Wednesday night. The river reached 13.4 feet at 2 a.m. Thursday and was falling by 5 a.m. At 12 feet, some low-lying streets in Independence are affected but the high point was significantly lower than the anticipated 21 feet. At 20 feet the city’s three bridges are impassable and the city is cut into two separate communities.

In Thursday morning’s flood warning statement the forecasters wrote: “there remains a great deal of uncertainty about why the river has not responded as previously expected considering the 4 to 7 inches of rain that fell on saturated ground Monday night.”

National Weather Service Meteorologist Andy Ervin said the heavy rain fell on Independence and flowed downstream past the city, averting the higher river levels that would have happened if the rain had fallen upstream.

“Some of the runoff has not gone in as quickly into the river. It’s resulted in a longer crest but a lower crest,” he said.

Rick Wulfekuhle, the Buchanan County emergency management coordinator in Independence, said it was a relief.

“Fortunately the rain stopped when it did. Mother Nature for once was kind to us,” he said. “We fared a lot better than we anticipated. The concern now is definitely downstream.”

Sandbags stockpiled for Independence are being sent downstream to other cities including Anamosa, a city of about 5,500 people.

Elsewhere in the state, flood warnings were issued for Burlington and Keokuk where the Mississippi River caused some flooding as it works toward a crest next week.

At Cedar Rapids, the Cedar River climbed just above the 12-foot flood stage early Thursday and was rising to an expected high of 15.3 feet on Friday. That means parks along the river will take on water.