USA – Severe Flooding in 3 Midwestern States, 2 Dead in Wisconsin

Flooding and landslides caused by several days of heavy rain in parts of the Upper Midwest have left two people dead in Wisconsin and prompted evacuations there and in parts of northern Iowa and southern Minnesota.

The Governors of Iowa and Wisconsin have declared a state of emergency for affected areas in their respective states.

“More than 10 inches of rain fell this week which caused flooding and mudslides across the region of western Wisconsin,” Governor Scott Walker said. The city of Waseca recorded 9.15 inches in 24 hours to Thursday 22 September.

At least 2 flood and rain related deaths have been reported in the state. A mudslide in Wheatland destroyed a house and left one man dead. A second victim died in his vehicle after attempting to drive through flood waters in Viroqua.

Flooding has damaged homes and washed out roads. A stretch of railway track near the Mississippi River in Ferryville, Wisconsin, was washed away, derailing a train. Wisconsin emergency officials said 15 people who lived nearby were evacuated as a precaution.

Meanwhile in Iowa, residents of Cedar Rapids are bracing themselves for potential flooding as levels of the Cedar River are predicted to jump 15 feet over the next 48 hours.

Evacuations have been carried out in Mason City, Clarksville and Palo, and an evacuation advisory issued for parts of Cedar Rapids.

The National Weather Service at La Crosse said that the 7 day period to 23 September saw rainfall levels in parts of the Midwest between 5 to 7.5 times higher than normal for this period.

The Governor’s state of emergency is the second in 2 months for flood events affecting the state of Iowa. On 25 August, 2016 Governor Branstad issued an emergency declaration for northern counties after severe flooding.

Areas Affected

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker declared a State of Emergency for 13 western Wisconsin counties following torrential rains this week since Wednesday which caused widespread flooding and mudslides. Counties declared are Buffalo, Chippewa, Clark, Columbia, Crawford, Eau Claire, Jackson, La Crosse, Monroe, Richland, Sauk, Trempealeau, and Vernon.

Iowa Governor, Terry E. Branstad yesterday issued a proclamation of disaster emergency for 13 counties, including Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Cedar, Chickasaw, Delaware, Floyd, Franklin, Linn and Wright.

The governor made a tour of affected areas in Iowa on Saturday, 24 September.

Flooding in Clarksville, Iowa. September 2016. Photo: Office of the Governor, Iowa
Flooding in Clarksville, Iowa. September 2016. Photo: Office of the Governor, Iowa

Rivers

The heavy rainfall caused rivers to overflow. The Turkey River at Garber, Iowa and the Kickapoo River at Steuben and Gays Mills, Wisconsin, are above major flood stage.

The Cedar River is also above major flood stage at Charles City and forecast to exceed major flood stage at Waterloo in the next few hours.

Residents of Cedar Rapids are bracing themselves for potential flooding as levels of the Cedar River are predicted to jump 15 feet over the next 48 hours.

The Shell Rock River flooded parts of Clarksville, Iowa, after a temporary levee failed on 22 September. Around 280 people were forced from their homes, according to local police.

Shell Rock River, Iowa. Image: NOAA
Shell Rock River, Iowa. Image: NOAA

The Eau Claire River near Fall Creek, Wisconsin, reached major flood stage and crested at 17.5 feet on 23 September, about 2 feet below record level from 1993.

The Black River at Black River Falls, Wisconsin reached 60.3 feet on 22 September. Major flood stage is 55 feet and the record is 61.5 feet.

Cedar Rapids

The city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is facing major flooding from the swollen Cedar River in what seems like a worrying repeat of the devastating floods of 2008.

The level of the river is expected to jump from the 9.63 feet as of early Saturday, 24 September, to 25 feet – the second highest ever.- during the evening of Monday 26 September. The highest recorded is 31.12 feet set in June 2008. Major flood stage is 16 feet.

Cedar River at Cedar Rapids. Image: NOAA
Cedar River at Cedar Rapids. Image: NOAA

The city is deploying pumps, sewer plugs, Hesco barriers, sandbagging and other protection methods.

In a statement on Friday, the City said it “is using every resource available to protect our city and keep citizens from harm. For low-lying areas, we encourage all residents and business to take measures to protect their properties. Based on current projections, we are preparing for approximately 6-8 feet less than what we experienced during the 2008 flood. Lower levels of properties will be impacted first, including basements, window wells, and floor drains.”

Since then, evacuation plans have been drawn up and officials have requested that residents in areas along the river leave their homes by Sunday evening. In a statement yesterday, city officials said:

“We are asking for residents and businesses in affected areas to evacuate by 8:00 p.m. on Sunday evening. Evacuation plans are drawn for a 28 feet inundation area. Detailed maps of the area, as well as address lists are available on the City website: www.cedar-rapids.org. If your home or business is on that list, we ask that you secure your possessions and leave your property by that time.

“Along with the evacuation, we will also be enacting and enforcing a curfew in evacuated neighborhoods from 8:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. The police department will be patrolling the neighborhoods.”

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Flood Summary

Last updated: October 3, 2016
Event
Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, USA, September 2016
Date
September 20, 2016
Type
Inland flood, Landslide, River flood
Cause
Extreme rainfall

Locations

A - Cedar Rapids, Iowa
B - Clarksville, Iowa
C - Palo, Iowa
D - Mason City
E - Viroqua
F - Wheatland
G - Ferryville

Magnitude

Rainfall level
232.41 mm in 24 hours
Waseca, Wisconsin - September 21 to September 22, 2016
River level
6.55 metres
Shell Rock River, Shell Rock - September 23 to September 23, 2016
River level
5.33 metres
Eau Claire River near Fall Creek, Wisconsin - September 23 to September 23, 2016

Damages

Evacuated
10,000
Iowa - September 21 to September 27, 2016
Fatalities
2 people
Wisconsin - September 21 to September 22, 2016
Buildings destroyed
32 buildings
Wisconsin - September 21 to September 22, 2016