Iowa flood of 2008

Infobox flood
image location=Dairy Queen, Cedar Rapids, June 12 2008.jpg

name= Iowa Flood of 2008
duration=June 7 - around July 1
total damages (USD)=At least 7 Billion
total fatalities= 0 deaths
areas affected=
The Iowa flood of 2008 was an event involving most of the rivers in eastern Iowa beginning around June 8, 2008 and ending about July 1. Flooding continued on the Upper Mississippi River in the southeastern portion of the state for several more days. The phrase "Iowa's Katrina" was often heard. [ [ Editorial: Iowa's Katrina? Not if state does its part: Charity helps now, but eventually, state must pay. ] , Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 16, 2008, Retrieved June 22, 2008]

The flooding included (from north to south, east to west), the Upper Iowa River, the Turkey, and the Maquoketa Rivers; outside of the Driftless Area, they include the catchments of the Wapsipinicon River and that of the Iowa River, to include the latter's major tributary, the Cedar River (and its significant tributaries); and the Skunk River in its various forks. The Des Moines River had some minor flooding, but floodwalls and levees for the most part held fast. The Upper Mississippi River which receives the outflow from all these rivers remains at flood stage.

The flooding of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City were the most significant events. Recovery, particularly for Cedar Rapids will be a protracted, costly affair. For Iowa City, the level of devastation was less than expected, but that of Cedar Rapids was greater that anticipated. In Iowa City, the campus of the University of Iowa was vulnerable, and serious flooding did occur.

President George W. Bush landed on Air Force 1 at The Eastern Iowa Airport on June 20. He toured on foot and by helicopter the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City region. On the same day, Senator John McCain made a stop in Columbus Junction. [John Q, Lynch, "We're going to help you", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 20, 2008, p.1A] [Associated Press, "McCain tours flood-damaged Columbus Junction", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 20, 2008, p.1B]


Elwynn Taylor of Iowa State University was quoted in The Des Moines Register on June 11th as saying that the wet spring of 2008 was traceable to relatively warm and wet air over the winter. Taylor was quoted at length:

"Fog in the winter is normally the result of a strong flow of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, which normally does not occur in the winter," he said. "Usually that occurs in March and April. It's caused by either low pressure over New Mexico or high pressure over Bermuda. Both are common in the summer. Both are rare in the winter. More than 80 percent of moisture that falls in the Midwest is from the Gulf of Mexico, and the primary cause of it coming here is the Bermuda high pressure. The pressure arrived very early and much stronger than usual by April and May this year. And it was the case in 1993." [cite web
author=John Carlson
title=Carlson: "Our swamped state"
publisher=The Des Moines Register

Taylor was quoted at length in the article, concluding: "Rule of thumb is, if a storm begins in the Texas panhandle, it will come to Iowa," Taylor said. "The conditions that allow a storm to develop there are the conditions that move the storm to Iowa."

The 2007-2008 winter was particularly severe in the northeastern portion of the state, with a heavy snow cover that persisted in many areas until early spring rains. From the last week in April, the state experienced heavy rain, particularly in the form of thunderstorms, which saturated the soils. It was an extension of the Late-May 2008 tornado outbreak sequence, which aside from record-making tornadoes, also brought additional, huge quantities of rain in the form of stalled thunderstorm systems.


While the Great Flood of 1993 was greater in continental terms, in local Iowa terms, the June, 2008 Midwest floods were considerably worse. Lessons learned in 1993, however, helped prevent or otherwise ameliorate damage, extensive as it was; one example is how the city of Des Moines raised its levee around its domestic water and sewage treatment plants.

The flooding led to evacuations of many homes. In eastern Iowa along the Iowa River and Cedar River, flooding exceeded that of the Flood of 1993. [cite web
author=Iowa City Press-Citizen
title=Officials: Flood of 2008 to be worse than Flood of '93
publisher=Iowa City Press-Citizen

Flooding also forced the closure of an extensive number of roads throughout the eastern half of the state, a situation that affected far more people than those who directly experienced the floods; in particular, portions of Interstate 80 and Interstate 380 were closed. The closure of bridges in Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City just about completely disrupted normal traffic patterns, and entailed enormous detours.

Rail traffic was also seriously compromised. The Iowa, Chicago and Eastern Railroad (IC&E Railroad) had a washout between Mason City and Nora Springs. The Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway Co. (CRANDIC/CIC) was particularly affected; its bridge in Cedar Rapids was destroyed by the flooding while an embankment downriver near Coralville was also washed out. The Keokuk Junction Railway (KJRY) also reported disruptions. Amtrak service was rerouted, away from Iowa; a number of trains had their passengers put onto busses. [" [ Significant damage to IC&E rail lines from flood] ", "Waterloo Courier", June 14, 2008, retrieved June 16, 2008]

Restoration of Amtrak service

Amtrak was due to restore service July 5, 2008 on its California Zephyr from Chicago to Denver. The service had been suspended due to flooding in Iowa. Two other routes closed by flooding had resumed service on July 1. Chartered motor coaches were used in the interim as alternate transportation. [ [,0,7531084.story "Amtrak expected to restore route through Iowa"] , Chicago Tribune Retrieved July 5, 2008]

Upper Iowa River


On Monday, June 9 the Upper Iowa River in Decorah flooded when a shorter college-built levee was breached. The Army Corps of Engineers levee held in all parts of Decorah. Up to convert|6|in|mm|0 of rain had fallen in the 48 hours prior. The water flooded parts of the lower campus of Luther College, damaging athletic fields and the Regents Center. Winneshiek County officials called this the worst flood to occur in Decorah since the current levee system was put in place in the 1940s. [Sarah Strandberg, " [ Dike Breach causes flooding at Luther] ", Retrieved June 16, 2008] Other portions of the city were flooded. Part of the city was evacuated. [ [ Parts of Decorah evacuated] , KWWL-TV, June 9, 2008, Retrieved June 16, 2008] For a time, worries of losing the sanitary sewer system led to a 'please don't flush' order; as of Friday, 13 June, 2008, this order was withdrawn, but pleas for careful use remain in effect.This article also alludes to a difficult cleanup facing Decorah as well as Winneshiek County.


Further downstream on the Upper Iowa, in the small historic unincorporated area of Dorchester, severe flooding was experienced. In particular, a trailer court sustained major damage. ["Mobile homes destroyed in Dorchester"] , "Waukon Standard" (Waukon, Iowa), June 11, 2008, p.1 [ online version] , retrieved June 15, 2008]

The flood began in the early morning of Sunday, June 8; people were advised to evacuate that Saturday evening. Approximately seven to ten inches (254 mm) of rain fell in the area that Saturday. The main troublemaker was Waterloo Creek, a normally placid trout stream tributary to the Upper Iowa at Dorchester. The Eitzen, Minnesota Fire Department responded to the flood. [Alyce May. "Dorchester residents work to recover from last weekend's flooding", "The Standard" (Waukon, Iowa), June 18, 2008, p.1] Cleanup and recovery is in progress.

Turkey River

pillville and Fort Atkinson

Along the upper Turkey River, the historic towns of Spillville and Fort Atkinson experienced significant flooding, with damaged roads. [" [ Winneshiek County Flood Information] ", KCRG-TV, Retrieved June 16, 2008] ] In particular the one-year-old bridge carrying Iowa Highway 24 had its approach on one side of the river washed out by floodwaters. [" [ Winneshiek County bridge collapses] " KWWL-TV, June 10, 2008, retrieved June 16, 2008]


Further downstream in Elkader, the river crested in the morning on Tuesday June 10 at nearly convert|31|ft|m, besting the previous record set in 1991. [Erik Hogstrom, " [ Elkader in deep: Floodwaters drench tri-states; more rains are expected to make matters much worse] ", Dubuque Telegraph Herald, June 11, 2008 retrieved June 16, 2008] The river had retreated by Thursday, June 12 [Katie Wiedemann, " [ Elkader Slammed By Floods] ", KCRG-TV, retrieved June 16, 2008]

By June 16, most of the water had been pumped out of buildings. At "least 20 homes were destroyed and nine suffered major damage".Courtney Blanchard, " [ Hope in wake of heartache: Some tri-state communities begin flood cleanup as waters recede and weather improves] " Dubuque "Telegraph Herald", June 16, 2008, retrieved June 16, 2008]

Damages were initially estimated to be in the range of $8 million, of which about $3.7 million in damage to the city's infrastructure; these figures are expected to rise. About 100 people evacuated. [Gordon Tustin, "Drying out, cleaning up process begins", "The" (Clayton County, Iowa) "Outlook", June 18, 2008, p.1]

Maquoketa River

In the Maquoketa's upper area, Monticello experienced high water. [Beth Malicki, " [ Monticello Battles the Maquoketa River] ", KCRG-TV, June 9, 2008, retrieved June 13, 2006]


Beginning in early May, Manchester has endured a series of floods, with a total of convert|24|in|mm of rain over the period. Downtown alone has been hit four times. Supersaturated soil led to basement flooding.Erik Hogstrom, " [ Uncharted Waters: Area rivers hit levels never before seen; rescue personnel scramble as cities evacuated] " Dubuque "Telegraph Herald", June 13, 2008, Retrieved June 20, 2008]

Wapsipinicon River


Independence experienced flooding in low-lying areas.


A levee breach occurred in Anamosa on Thursday, June 12. While the flooding was not extensive, it nonetheless knocked out the city's sewer treatment facility. The Wapsi crested at convert|18.25|ft|m, breaking the older record of convert|16|ft|m in 1999. [Orlan Love, "Wapsi rages through Jones County", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 14, 2008, p.1B]

The cost of putting the sewer system back to full function was $3 million; initial filtering, however, was expected to come back on line by the second week of August.Orlan Love, "$3 million cost to repair Anamosa wastewater plant", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 17, 2008, p.2B]

Olin and Oxford Junction

Oxford Junction managed to protect its water plant as well as the American Legion hall. Upriver, Olin suffered flooding in low-lying areas but the waters were receding by June 15. [Orlan Love, "Legion saves hall from floodwaters", Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 15, 2008, p.2B]

Olin sustained about $80,000 in damage. At least 80 homes sustained damage. Orlan Love, "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 17, 2008, p.2B]

With Oxford Junction, the nearby Cooksville area had about 30 homes evacuated. The city sustained damage to the road leading to the sewer treatment facility..Orlan Love, "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 17, 2008, p.2B]

The two towns were spared even greater damages by a levee breach upstream in the Massilon-Toronto region, which flooded up to convert|1000|acre|km2 of farmland, easing what would have been a higher crest.Orlan Love, "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 17, 2008, p.2B]

De Witt

De Witt sits above the Wapsi, between two minor tributaries of the river. Areas outside the city are expected to flood, and some sandbagging is in progress. The expected crest near De Witt was convert|14|ft|m, near to the record set in 1993. [Steven Martens, " [ Wapsi expected to set new record south of DeWitt] ", "Quad City Times", June 16, 2008, Retrieved June 16, 2008] The actual crest was convert|14.13|ft|m on Monday, June 18; flood stage is convert|11|ft|m. [Kurt Allemeier, " [ Flood of 2008: Crest likely 5th-highest in history] ", "Quad City Times", June 17, 2008, Retrieved June 18, 2008]

Iowa River

The Iowa River has as its major tributary the Cedar River.

Iowa City-Coralville

Coralville Lake had waters flowing over its emergency spillway at a record breaking crest just short of convert|717|ft|m. Downstream, the Iowa continued to rise, progressively inundating portions of Coralville and Iowa City. Smaller local tributaries added to the problem, particularly in Iowa City along Ralston Creek and in Coralville along Clear Creek.

By Saturday, June 14, the river had seriously risen. Warnings were issued for people to prepare to evacuate from the 500-year-flood floodplain. The University had time to prepare, moving important library collections out of harms way, through the help of volunteers. The bookstore in the student union had its contents moved to higher ground. [ [ University of Iowa information page] , retrieved June 14, 2008] The University's electrical power plant was shut down on Saturday, June 14 as sections of it began to take on water. [Gregg Hennigan, "Iowa River keeps rising towards crest", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 15, 2008, p.1]

In Coralville, the washout of the embankment holding the tracks of the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railroad and subsequent high water severely compromised the city's access to Iowa City. [Kristina Andino, "Everything's at the tipping point", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 15, 2008] The DOT decided to close US Highway 6 in two places in the area; one in downtown Coralville and the other in Iowa City at the intersection of Highway 6 and Iowa Highway 1.

The river crested at convert|31.5|ft|m, about two feet lower than had been predicted. A reported sixteen buildings on the University of Iowa campus were flooded, including Hancher Auditorium; this number was later upped to at least twenty. [Diane Heidt, "Hancher joins list of flooded buildings at UI", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 16, 2008, p.1] There were over 6 million sandbags filled in Johnson County, which is more than were filled during Hurricane Katrina, and is a national record. [Tim Higgins and Mason Kerns, " [ Iowa City sending a gift: 250,000 extra sandbags] ", "Des Moines Register", June 18, 2008]

A major concern was for the integrity of the University of Iowa Hospitals; there were no reports of damage.

The Arts Campus was particularly affected. Hancher Auditorium took on floodwaters up to the stage level and into the middle of the main floor seats. The Voxman Music Building was filled up to the first floor level. On the east side of the river, the Adler Journalism Building, the Becker Communications Study Building all had water in their basements. The main library had only minor flooding, and then only in its basement. The Iowa Memorial Union took on water in its basement and first floor. Mayflower residence hall, home to about 1,000 students during the school year, took water into it's underground parking and utility areas as well as into parts of the first floor. At one time, the dorm was projected to remain closed for at least a semester, if not for the whole 2008-2009 academic year. ["Flood damage will leave Mayflower empty until 2009", "The Daily Iowan", June 24, 2008] . However, the damages to the building were not as significant as once thought and Mayflower will be open above the first floor for the 2008-09 school year. The campus has miles of utility tunnels, some of then crossing under the river, and maintaining electrical and air conditioning service was a fragile thing. Summer courses resumed Monday, June 23. ["Damage extensive in UI arts buildings", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 30, 2008, p.B1]

The "Press-Citizen", Iowa City's daily paper, has posted a [ timeline of the Iowa City flood] .


Hills is about six miles (10 km) downstream from Iowa City. The town heavily sandbagged over the weekend, and there are hopes the water will spread out into open farmland and spare the town. [Scott Dochterman, "Hills: Ready for battle", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 16, 2008, p.7A]


Wapello, seat of Louisa County experienced a levee breach, and while the city is presently dry, everyone is watchful, hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. [Dustin Lemmon, [ Flood of 2008: Iowa River at Wapello could climb four more feet] , "Quad City Times", June 16, 2006, Retrieved June 16, 2008]


Oakville is the last town on the Iowa River before it empties into the Mississippi. The authorities believed it would be in danger when the river crested and had issued an evacuation order to take effect on Monday, June 16. However, in the early morning of June 14 a river levee near the town failed catastrophically, resulting in an immediate emergency evacuation order. [John Mangalonzo, " [ Iowa River tops Oakville levee] " Burlington, Iowa "Hawk Eye", June 15, 2008, Retrieved June 16, 2008] In [ an interview with NPR] , the mayor of Oakville recounted that she was in the town hall when a National Guard vehicle drove up to the building and a Guardsman got out and literally started shouting, "The levee's going, get out, get out now."

Within hours, most of the town was submerged under several feet of water and remained flooded for days. As of July 1, the levee was still open to the river, and water was still passing through it. The Corps of Engineers hopes to implement a rock and earthen patch in the near future [Associated Press, " [,0,4581955.story Corps looks to shore up Oakville levee soon] " Chicago Tribune, July 1, 2008, Retrieved July 1, 2008] , but the town's future remains uncertain as almost all of the buildings were damaged or destroyed and almost none of the residents carried flood insurance.

Cedar River

A number of cities, and rural areas, suffered serious flooding, the most extreme being that in Cedar Rapids.

Charles City

Charles City experienced the earliest flooding on the Cedar, starting on Sunday June 9. It is reported as the worst flood in the city's history. The city's historic suspension bridge was swept away. [" [ 100 evacuated in Charles City; flood water divides Nashua] ", Waterloo Courier, June 10, 2008, retrieved June 14, 2008]


Waverly was caught a little unaware by the size of the river's height, causing officials to scramble; the river crested locally at convert|19.12|ft|m. More than 2500 people evacuated. A second crest of 13.73 ft was experienced on June 15. [Karen Heinselman, " [ , Waterloo Courier, June 14, 2008, retrieved June 14] ] , 2008]

Cedar Falls-Waterloo

Cedar Falls, home of the University of Northern Iowa, is on the west bank of the Cedar River, and north of Waterloo, which occupies both banks of the river. Over 3,000 residents from Cedar Falls and surrounding areas sandbagged to save downtown Cedar Falls. Hundreds of homes were flooded in North Cedar Falls. Both cities suffered significant flooding, but nothing like what happened downstream. The worst problem was the fact that all the bridges were closed. The Waterloo Courier lost the use of its printing plant but continued printing by courtesy of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. [" [ Volunteers step up to save communities] ", Waterloo Courier, June 12, 2008, retrieved June 14, 2008]

On the morning of Wednesday, June 11, television news station KWWL was knocked off the air by a "flood-related" power outage but regained power by the afternoon by using a generator. Then on the night of Monday, June 16, at about 9:30, KWWL lost power, that subsequently put them off the air, and had a small electrical fire in a part of their building. An electric motor burned and sent smoke through the building. They were able to resume broadcasts around 1:00 Tuesday morning. [ "KWWL returns to the air after power outage and electrical fire" KWWL-TV, June 16, 2008, retrieved June 17, 2008]

La Porte City

La Porte City had earlier suffered a significant flood at the end of May. [Laura Grevas, " [ La Porte City wrestles with flooding after rains] ", Waterloo Courier, June 1, 2008, retrieved June 14, 2008] . By June 10, the city braced for a second onslaught. [Jeff Reinitz, " [ La Porte City braces for more flooding from Wolf Creek] ", Waterloo Courier, June 10, 2008, retrieved June 14, 2008]


Vinton experienced the worst flooding in its history starting in the early morning of Wednesday, June 10 with a crest upwards of convert|24|ft|m. The flood knocked out the municipal electrical generating plant, inundating about 15 blocks along the river. The Benton County jail had to be evacuated. [Adam Belz, " [ Flooding wipes out Vinton's electricity, claims downtown] ", Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 11, 2008, retrieved June 14, 2008] The sheriff's office was indundated, as was the basement of the County courthouse, where 911 dispatchers were housed. [Adam Belz, " [ Downpour douses drowned Vinton] ", Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 12, 2008, retrieved June 14, 2008]


The small town of Palo, just upstream from Cedar Rapids, and home of Iowa's only nuclear power plant, underwent a mandatory evacuation. [ [ "Flood waters isolate Palo"] , Gazette Online, retrieved June 13, 2008] The nuclear plant was not harmed, but did lose land-based telephone service, as the land lines were routed through Palo. [" [ Nuclear plant loses primary phone service] ", Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 13, 2008, retrieved June 14, 2008]

By Sunday, June 15, the city remained completely evacuated of its 890 citizens. Debris obstructed any approach by river, and road access was cut off, and the city was essentially marooned. [Dale Binegar, "Palo residents eager to return home", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 15, 2008, p. 2B] By Tuesday, June 17 it was reported that residents had for the most part returned home to deal with damage. Some buildings were more damaged than others; some had only a flooded basement to deal with, but for others, the water reached up to the first floor level.After the flood mayor Terry Sanders resigned and Jeff Beauregard was appointed as the interim mayor. ["Pat Shaver, "Palo residents continue cleanup" "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 19, 2008, p. 2B]

Cedar Rapids

The river began to rise above floodstage early in the morning of Wednesday June 11. It crested at past convert|31|ft|m around 1:30 PM on Friday, June 13, with the floodwaters expected to have fully retreated by June 24 (barring any new heavy rains). [Adam Belz, "C.R. struggles to grasp losses", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 14, 2008, p.1]

About 1,300 blocks, to include most of downtown, were inundated with 3,900 homes being affected. Mays Island, which has Cedar Rapids City Hall, the Linn County Courthouse, the county jail as well as the United States Courthouse was flooded up to the second floor level. Buildings that did not suffer any first floor damage had flooded basements. The Czech Village, Time Check and Cedar Valley/Rompot districts were particularly hard hit. Early damage estimates were upwards to three-quarters of a billion dollars; this is expected to rise. The city's domestic water distribution was compromised, as all but one of the city's wells were flooded, and water usage restrictions were imposed. The river is reported to be dropping faster than had been earlier expected. A revised figure of convert|31.3|ft|m was issued for the crest. [Adam Belz, "Cedar River dropping faster than expected", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 15, 2008, p.1]

Linn County moved most of its governmental offices, to include the county courts, to the campus of Kirkwood Community College. [Rick Smith, "Linn moving most county offices to Kirkwood", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 16, 2008, p.2A]

Tremendous disruption to the city's utilities occurred. Electricity was cut off to the flooded parts of the city by the power company, as was natural gas. Telephone and internet service was also disrupted. ["School district hopes Internet back today", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 19, 2008, p.eB]

As the waters receded, inundated buildings were inspected by the authorities before owners could check out the damage, using a color-coded system where green meant the building was safe for occupancy, yellow for limited at-your-own risk entry, red to indicate serious damage, and finally purple for those buildings which are to be demolished. With homes, the main problem was bowed or collapsed basement, or where the waters reached onto the first floor, failure of the floor joists, leading to a sagging or collapse into the basement. [James Q. Lynch, "Homes rated by condition", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 19, 2008, p.1B] The Time Check neighborhood is particularly hard hit, where several hundred homes were said to beyond salvation and will be demolished. [Steve Gravelle, "Many Time Check homes beyond repair", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 19, 2008, p.2B]

Cultural losses

The art deco Paramount Theatre, one of the city's premiere cultural venues, was flooded up to the first floor. The magnificent 1928 Wurlitzer theater organ was found to have floated up onto the stage, and the wood of the console said to be a total loss. The possibility of repairing and restoring it to its former glory remains an open question. [Adam Belz, "Mighty Wurlitzer pulled off Paramount stage, its future uncertain", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 19, 2008, p.1B]

The African American Cultural Center and Museum took on water up to the first floor, and it remains to be seen how much of its 1,700 exhibits can be salvaged. [Jamie Kelly, "African American museum separating lost from saved", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 19, 2008, p.2B]

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library received water into the first floor area, with the loss of many artifacts and documents. [ [ National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library website] , Retrieved June 20, 2008]

The main branch of the Cedar Rapids Public Library was greatly damaged. With a collection of books said to be about 290,000, it is believed the entire adult section was lost, as was the reference section. The children's collection, however, was unflooded, and recovery efforts are in progress. Plans to expand the building and as well as an increase in the library levy are now on indefinite hold. ["A loss of literature", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 20, 2008, p.3B] On July 3, the library's director stated that the main branch may not reopen for at least a year. In the meantime the library plans to lease additional space at Westdale Mall, where it already operates a branch. [cite news|author=Adam Belz|title=Cedar Rapids library won't reopen for at least a year|url=|work=Cedar Rapids Gazette|date=2008-07-03]

The Helen G. Nassif YMCA was badly damaged, with an estimated 7½ feet of water on the first floor. The convert|65000|sqft|m2|sing=on downtown facility was built in 2002 for a cost of $8 million. [Pat Shaver, "Water swamps C.R.'s downtown YMCA", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 20, 2008, p.2B]

The Mother Mosque of America, the oldest building in the United States built specifically for use as a mosque had its basement flooded, ruining a century's worth of documents and artifacts.

United States Courthouse

Congress had earlier authorized a new United States Courthouse, to replace the current crowded, out-dated building located on 1st Street SE. Both of Iowa's senators will be pushing hard to move up the appropriation necessary to build the new facility, as it makes little sense to repair the current flood-damaged building. [E. Michael Myers, "New courthouse 'makes sense'", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 19, 2008, p.4B]

Law enforcement

The flood greatly stressed the local police and sheriffs departments. The state activated the National Guard and sent about 750 of them into the city. Members of the Iowa State Patrol, the Iowa Department of Public Safety, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation responded. Sheriffs departments from other Iowa counties also sent manpower. The federal government also deployed agents from the FBI, ATF, the DEA, and ICE. The Nebraska State Patrol and Lincoln, Nebraska Police Department sent officers..Steve Gravelle, "Bridges opened; water rules eased", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 19, 2008, p.2A]

Officers from the Twin Cities area also showed up, including members Hennepin County, Minnesota Sheriff's office, and officers from the Minneapolis, Bloomington and Saint Paul police departments as well as state troopers. [Brandt Williams, " [ Minneapolis officers on flood relief duty in Iowa] ", Minnesota Public Radio, June 17, 2008, Retrieved June 19, 2008]

All of this extra help was used to man roadblocks and barricades.

The police department, located on the west bank of the river, was flooded and evacuated. By Friday, June 20, they had reoccupied the building as cleanup ensued. [Adam Belz, "Police moving back into station", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 20, 2008, p.3A]

Economic losses

Job losses were estimated to be in the 6,000-7,000 range. Officials urged those whose jobs were washed away by the flood to file for unemployment insurance, even those who might not be otherwise eligible as disaster unemployment benefits are available.Carly Weber, "6,000-7000 job losses estimated", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 19, 2008, p.2A]

Business losses were considerable. Many small businesses were essentially wiped out, particularly in the Czech Village area. The big Cargill plant was expected to reopen rapidly. Archer Daniels Midland expected to get its plant back online by the end of June. [Dave DeWitte, "Assessing the damage", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 19, 2008, p.8B]

Quaker Oats and Cedar Rapids are practically synonyms; Mark Schiller, Quaker's president is quoted as saying "We've been here for 140 years and we'll be here for another 140 years." The plant has operated in Cedar Rapids since 1873. Shiller indicated that the plant was largely undamaged, and that the main impediment to full re-opening was the lack of adequate electric service, as well as the fact that rail lines were closed. [George C. Ford, "Quaker president says C.R. plant saying at 'home'", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 20, 2008, p.3A]


By Wednesday, June 18, the waters had receded greatly, leaving only the Time Check neighborhood on the west bank of the river, and the Czech Village district, which lies on both sides of the river. Importantly, most bridges had been reopened, relieving the stress on the Interstate 380 which had been the only crossing that remained open (and only then with severe restrictions on who could cross). While downtown became accessible, power remained off, and traffic signals were out; this is because transformers were in underground vaults and were still receiving water. Water restrictions which imposed limits on use were also eased, and people were allowed the use of showers and washing machines.Steve Gravelle, "Bridges opened; water rules eased", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 19, 2008, p.2A]

Columbus Junction, Columbus City and Fredonia

Columbus Junction, Columbus City and Fredonia are all quite close to each other, at the confluence of the Cedar River and the Iowa River. Columbus Junction is located on the south bank of the Iowa. Columbus City is just south of Columbus Junction. Fredonia is on the north bank very close to the confluence of the rivers.

Early attempts at sandbagging in Columbus Junction were abandoned Saturday, June 14 when it was realized such efforts would be futile. Resources were then diverted to Oskaloosa, on the Skunk River.Scott Dochterman, "Fight ends in sacrifice", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 15, 2008]

Fredonia and parts of Columbus Junction and Columbus City were evacuated. [" [ Evacuations ordered in Columbus Junction, Fredonia] ", "Quad City Times", June 14, 2006, Retrieved June 16, 2006] Residents were allowed to return on June 16. Columbus Junction and Columbus City have water again, but were under a boil order. [ [ Fredonia residents can go home] , "Quad City Times", June 16, 2006, Retrieved June 16, 2006]

Governor Chet Culver was flown in to the area by Blackhawk helicopter on June 16. Louisa County received a presidential disaster declaration.Orlan Love, "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 17, 2008, p.2B]


Tipton is the seat of Cedar County. The county is reported to have had some damage, and the county was been declared a presidential disaster area. ["Cedar County's supervisors deal with flood's aftermath", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 17, 2008, p.3B]

kunk River


Colfax is located east of northeastern Des Moines. By June 9, the South Skunk had risen sufficiently to start sandbagging. [ [ Volunteers Try to Repel Skunk River in Colfax] , WHO-TV, June 9, 2008, Retrieved June 16, 2008]

U.S. Highway 61 was closed off five miles (8 km) south of Burlington due to the rising waters blocking off the road.


Oskaloosa is located between the South Skunk River and the Des Moines River just dowstream from Lake Red Rock. National Guardsmen who had been designated for Columbus JunctionScott Dochterman, "Fight ends in sacrifice", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 15, 2008] were sent to Oskaloosa. Around 7am on Thursday June 12th sandbagging began in an effort to save the city's water plant. The sandbagging continued until noon when they were allowed to stop. Later in the day the Army Corps of Engineers ordered that they continue sandbagging.The sandbagging started up around 5 pm and continued late into the night. Musco Sports Lighting sent a portable lighting truck to help the volunteers see at overnight. The sandbagging continued until about noon on Friday June 13th when the sandbagging was allowed to cease. The frantic sandbagging saved the city's water plant. [Duane Nollen, [ "Community comes together to save water plant] ", "Oskaloosa Herald", June 19, 2006, Retrieved June 19, 2006]

Des Moines River

Des Moines

Abandoned coal mines beneath Des Moines kept most of surface of the city safe during peak flooding of June 2008. It is estimated that over convert|300000|acre feet of Raccoon and Des Moines river flood water was trapped in the labyrinthine shafts and corridors a few feet beneath the land surface. In Des Moines a levee breach flooded the Birdland Park neighborhood north of downtown. The river was past its crest by Friday June 13, but advisories were still in effect. [Associated Press, "Levee breach floods D.M. neighborhood", Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 15, 2008, p.4B]


Ottumwa is downstream from Oskaloosa. A electrical substation was threatened. Elements from the Iowa National Guard's 334th Brigade Support Battalion and the 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry, earlier deployed Cedar Falls and Oskaloosa, formed a human chain to successfully sandbag the facility. [Sgt. Chad D. Nelson, 135th MPAD, Iowa National Guard, " [ National Guard helps shore up Ottumwa sub-station] ", Retrieved June 19, 2008]

Mississippi River

The Army Corps was forced to close the river to navigation, intermittently, from Lock and Dam No. 11 to Lock and Dam No. 25. As of Sunday, June 15, Locks 13 through 25 were closed, making convert|281|mi|km of the Mississippi River inaccessible to commercial river traffic. [ [ Main pge of Rock Island District] , retrieved June 18, 2008] Mississippi River traffic resumed on Saturday, July 5, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, as the final lock to be cleared for operation, Lock 25, reopened Saturday morning. [ [ "Mississippi River reopens as flooding wanes"] , Reuters Retrieved July 5, 2008]


Dubuque has apparently escaped anything really serious, receiving only the usual grief in a major storm, with the occasional flash flood on the Little Maquoketa River or Catfish Creek. Lock and Dam No. 11 had its floodgates opened by the Army Corps to prevent the dam being overtopped by what were then now flood stage waters.

Quad Cities

The Quad Cities are named for two cities in Iowa, Davenport and Bettendorf and the two Illinois cities of Moline and Rock Island

The Mississippi River topped the convert|15|ft|m|sing=on flood stage in the Quad Cities on June 11, 2008.cite web | title = Local river levels| publisher =Quad City Times| url =| date = | accessdate =2008-06-16 ] Davenport is the largest city bordering the Mississippi that has no permanent floodwall or levee.cite web | title = Welcome to the story of Davenport, Iowa| publisher =Michigan Technological University | url = | date = | accessdate =2008-06-16 ] On June 12, 3.28 inches of rain fell in six hours at the Quad City International Airport courtesy of severe thunderstorms and high winds, breaking the record of rain fall, for that time period, adding major problems to the flooding.cite web | title = New record rainfall bolsters flooding in Q-C; Rock River expected to break record| publisher =Quad City Times| url =| date = | accessdate =2008-06-16 ] The rain caused not only Mississippi River flooding, but also flooding at Duck Creek. Duck Creek is a creek which winds through central Davenport. Duck Creek topped four feet over flood stage. Three of the seven main streets, including U.S. Route 61 which was being used as a detour for Interstate 80, that cross the creek were blocked off due to major flooding over the roads.cite web | title = Crossing limited along Duck Creek| publisher =Quad City Times|url =| date = | accessdate =2008-06-16 ] The river is expected to crest on June 16, at convert|21.3|ft|m which is convert|6.3|ft|m over flood stage, then start falling shortly after. The river is expected to be down to convert|18.6|ft|m by June 21, but won’t be back to the convert|15|ft|m|sing=on flood stage until sometime during the week of June 22.cite web | title =Flood of 2008: River crest finally nears| publisher =Quad City Times| url =| date = | accessdate =2008-06-16 ] The YouTube article "Lightning Hitting the Ground/Flooded Mississippi" is one of several videotaping shots which relates to the severe thunderstorms which created the flooding at Duck Creek during Thursday, June 12 and Friday, June 13.


In the city of Burlington the river played havoc with the annual music festival, causing it to close three days early, the first such occurrence since 1965.

Flood waters caused the city to close off the area of the riverfront along Front Street to Main Street. Several buildings along Main Street, including the county courthouse and the historic railroad depot, utilized several sandbags around the buildings in an attempt to keep the rising flood waters at bay. Buildings as far west as Fourth Street (four blocks west of, and parallel to, the riverfront), and the historic fire station, were pumping out their basements due to the flood waters.

On the morning of June 10, all rail traffic was halted at the BNSF Bridge and rerouted to other, safer bridges, as the level of the river was just a little over five feet from the bottom of the tracks, and flood waters had begun to overtake the bridge's western approach into Iowa, by the morning of June 15, the river had placed itself to the bottom of the bridge, hiding all piers, and causing the bridge to appear as if it were simply resting on top of the water.

The city's rail yard, which runs parallel to the riverfront, began to experience flooding for the first time since the Flood of 1993 on the afternoon of June 12, as it encroached on their diversion spurs, and began to follow the tracks leading out of the city. By mid-afternoon on June 15, the entire yard had flooded out, by the morning of June 16, the flood waters were so deep in the rail yard, the tracks were no longer visible.

Several buildings along the waterfront, including Memorial Auditorium, and the historic Port of Burlington building, began sandbagging efforts early on the morning of June 11 to keep out the rising flood waters.

By the morning of June 12 the flood waters began to fill parking lots of businesses along the riverfront, including the Port of Burlington and Memorial Auditorium, both of which sit at the river's edge, by the morning of June 16, both buildings had flooded up to the main floor, as the flood waters seeped through cracks between the sandbags, rendering the work that had been done to protect them useless, the outdoor stage that is connected to the south facade of the Port of Burlington building was not visible, nor were the access ramps that run along the entire western entrance. (the stage is built up five feet from ground level, and is made of concrete, the access ramps, and one raised sidewalk connects to it.)

During the afternoon of June 14, the city, as well as Des Moines County evacuated all residents living east of County Highway 99 due to a levee in the area threatening to fail. A bulge had been seen on one side of the levee, and water was pooling near the base on the dry side, by the early morning of June 16, three more bulges were discovered along the Tama Levee, the longest levee in the area, and one of only a handful of survivors from the Flood of 1993, this made workers in the area state that it was no longer a question of if, but when the levee would break.

One of the city's largest employers, Case Corporation, had been threatened with rising flood waters, due to its proximity to the riverfront, and due to the closeness to a levee that was severely damaged due to constant rains in the area, by the morning of June 15, Case had ceased all production, and ordered a shutdown of the plant, allowing workers to help in the sandbagging effort, surprisingly, the plant survived the flood unscathed, the fourth such flood it had withstood,(the building that houses the Case plant has stood in its current location since the late 1890s, first as Shower Brothers furniture. The plant, as Case, became operational in 1937, and withstood the floods of 1965, 1973, and 1993.)

By the early evening of June 14 residents were put on alert that water might be shut off, due to the possibility of flood waters reaching the treatment plant along the riverfront, however, on the morning of June 15, it was stated that the plant would not be affected, unless the river were to crest at, or above the convert|30|ft|m|sing=on mark, which, according to records, has not happened in well over a century, and not since the recent water treatment plant had been built.

Burlington's newspaper, The Hawk-Eye, remains in operation, despite its close proximity to the flooding Mississippi River. It has never stopped publication in its history.

One of two major highways that serve the Burlington area, U.S. Highway 61, was closed off just south of the city, near the county line. On July 19, 2008, the Great River Bridge, connecting Highway 34 west with Illinois officially re-opened after being closed for nearly a month. The Great River bridge is an important connection to Illinois, because nearly 40% of Burlington's workforce lives in nearby Illinois.

The early morning of June 15 saw a section of Main Street, between Division Street, and Jefferson Street blocked off, due to the rising flood waters.

The entire length of County Highway 99, from the city limits, to the northern county line, was blocked off, due to the rising flood waters, and a break along a levee on the Iowa River near Oakville (the road had already been blocked off near the northern county line, due to construction).

The National Weather Service expects the river to crest on June 18 at convert|25.8|ft|m, surpassing the crest of the Flood of 1993 by .7 feet, making it the second worst flood in the city's history.

By the morning of June 15, several streets had been closed, making travel difficult, among them were, Front Street, running the entire length of the road, Main Street, between Division Street, and Jefferson Street, Mill Dam Road, Tama Road, and all of its side roads, U.S. Highway 61, and County Highway 99, by the morning of June 17, Main Street had been blocked off even further, extending another block to the south, and Division Street had been blocked off up to Third Street, along with Jefferson Street, and Valley Street.

By June 15, Lock and Dam 18, north of the city, had stated that if the river does not begin to recede soon, they would be forced to open the flood gates, due to the possibility of the river topping over the dam.

On the morning of June 15, the Stevenson Lake levee, near Gulfport, Illinois gave way, bringing the depth of the river down somewhat, but completely obliterating the small town of 200, which lay directly across the river in Illinois.

As of July 23, 2008, the city of Gulfport, IL remains under water. Because Gulfport sits below the Mississippi river level, Gulfport will need to be drained using pumps. Many citizens of Burlington would travel to the Beverage Mart in Gulfport for cheap cigarettes. However, the city remains under water and many stores and houses are steadily decaying or are already destroyed.

As August drew to a close, Gulfport had been pumped out, the complete obliteration of several buildings, including The Beverage Mart was noticable, these buildings would be demolished later on, as of September 23, no plans have been made on reconstruction.

Media response

The local TV news stations went to wall-to-wall coverage starting Wednesday, June 11. KGAN-TV (CBS, channel 2) and KCRG-TV (ABC, channel 9), in Cedar Rapids, and KWWL-TV, (NBC, channel 7), in Waterloo all stayed on air giving local coverage, preempting network programs, even to include preempting the network evening news program. KCRG moved ABC's coverage of Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals to its digital subchannel, while KWWL broadcast NBC's coverage of the 2008 U.S. Open Golf Championship. Stations resumed airing regular programming June 15.

KCRG and " The Gazette," both owned by Gazette Communications and located right next to each other in downtown Cedar Rapids, have continued to operate out of their respective newsrooms despite the nearby flooding and loss of electricity. "The Gazette's" new editor, Steve Buttry, officially began his duties just two days before waters rose above flood stage in Cedar Rapids.

At about 9:30 pm on Monday, June 16, KWWL went off the air due to a small electrical fire in the studio. An electrical motor in the ventilation system caught fire and sent smoke through the building. [ "KWWL returns to the air after power outage and electrical fire" KWWL-TV, just before 8:00 p.m. Monday June 16, 2008, retrieved June 17, 2008] There were no injuries and hardly any damage. They resumed broadcasts at about 1:00 am on Tuesday, June 17.

Public health

Just after midnight, central time, June 13, Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids began evacuating its patients from the facility. It is understood they could not further function under the emergency circumstances. The evacuation was completed by about 8:20 AM. [ [ "Mercy Evacuates Patients as Floodwaters Rise"] KCRG-TV, June 13, 2008, retrieved June 13, 2008] [ Carly Weber, [ "Mercy Medical Center completes seven hour mass evacuation"] , "Gazette Online", retrieved June 13, 2008]

The main public health hazard is the polluted water, mixed with the outflow of overwhelmed sanitary sewer systems, petroleum products and a variety of other toxic materials, to include asbestos. As the waters recede, tremendous amounts of potentially infectious debris will add to the problem; this includes uncollected garbage and dead animals. This issue will be exacerbated by the onset of the usually hot and humid summer weather. Just making the affected areas sanitary again will be a huge undertaking. The problem of mold propagating in flooded buildings is one of major concern. [Cindy Hadish, "Mold a Concern in flooded buildings, "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 17, 2008, p.3B]

Contact with the polluted water and flood soaked item can cause rashes, and if it comes in contact with a skin cut, a variety of infections. Contracting a waterborne diseases such as dysentery is at increased risk. Mosquitoes are expected to be very bad this year, and these can carry West Nile virus. [Cindy Hadish, "Health hazards abound", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 19, 2008, p.5B]

Free tetanus shots were being offered in a many areas, including Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. [Cindy Hadish, "Thousands of Eastern Iowans looking into getting tetanus shots", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 17, 2008, p.3B]

In addition to physical disease, mental health problems are anticipated among those who were flooded out. Once the original shock and dismay pass, the losses of such things as wedding photos or treasured family heirlooms can lead to depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder. [Cindy Hadish, "Flooding could create spate of mental health issues", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 20, 2008, p.1D]


Comparison has been made to the Grand Forks, North Dakota, 1997 Red River Flood, Hurricane Katrina, and the Great Flood of 1993 and the lesson to be learned is that full recovery will take at least ten years, and that the political and private establishments will have to put aside territorial one-ups-man-ship and co-operate in making some decisions that will be decidedly unpopular. [Steve Buttry, "N.D. found recovery took 10 years", "Cedar Rapids Gazette", June 20, 2008, p.3A]

To assist in recovery efforts, a web site has been site up. [ Save Iowa] was established to help flood victims as there is a tremendous need for donations all across Iowa. Save Iowa makes it easy for people around the country to donate to the flood relief cause of their choice.

ee also

*June 2008 Midwest floods


External links

* [ Former Iowan blogs back to his flooded homeland]
* [ Iowa Flood News Blog Aggregator]

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