Flood woes begin with spring rain, snow melt

Across the region, streams overflow and mushy roads prevent travel

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Chunks of ice build up in a dredge ditch south of Otho Thursday morning as they get caught on the bridge supports at U.S. Highway 169.

Ice jams, wet basements, and sloppy roads have become a theme in the area.

And as a result of the issues caused by the continuous flooding, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation Thursday for multiple counties in the region.

The governor’s proclamation allows state resources to be used to recover from the effects of flooding. It also activates the Iowa Individual Assistance program and Disaster Case Management program for the following counties: Humboldt, Kossuth, Webster, and Wright.

Rural roads have made travel difficult, especially for heavier trucks.

“A lot of gravel roads are not being advised to travel on,” Dylan Hagen, Webster County emergency management coordinator, said.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Snow melt and rain water create a pond in the backyard of a home in Dayton Thursday following several days of warm temperatures and rains.

The extra water is causing problems in residential areas, too.

Street, yard flooding, and basement flooding are among those issues.

“It’s hard because there’s nearly two feet of frost on the ground yet, so the ground is still frozen,” Hagen said. “There’s not really anywhere for the water to go. Some of the tiles are still frozen with ice in them. It’s kind of hard to pump the water somewhere. It’s just going to run its course and we hope for the best.”

David Penton, Kossuth County emergency management coordinator, said roads have been deteriorating in Kossuth and Humboldt counties.

“Our secondary roads are in a fragile state,” Penton said. “When we get heavy trucks on there, it really tears those roads up. We have had issues where we have had fuel trucks, propane tanks getting stuck and just tearing up the road.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen The inlet filter for a field drain floats along the edge of a flooded field south of Otho Thursday morning.

Penton said in Kossuth County, it has been recommended that school buses only travel on hard surfaces for student transportation.

“If there happens to be an accident or something, it’s going to be difficult to get fire apparatus to them,” Penton said.

He said when firefighters tried to drive a truck down a gravel road recently, it wasn’t too efficient.

“There was a fire just north of Fenton, and they were taking the apparatus down gravel roads and it was just a mess,” he said. “Slow moving.”

Penton said an abandoned house caught fire and there were no injuries.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen The remains of a harvested corn field are reflected in standing water Thursday morning in a field south of Fort Dodge.

Hagen has kept an eye on ice jams throughout Webster County.

“There was a large ice jam between Coalville and Otho, a pretty big backup there that we thought we might have to evacuate some residents,” Hagen said. ”But luckily the ice jam decided to break apart and we didn’t have to evacuate anybody.”

He added, “There was one up by north of Loomis Park, one south of Lehigh, and one south of (Iowa Highway) 175. I am not sure if the one by Loomis is still there or not.”

Hagen doesn’t anticipate the flooding to end anytime soon.

“We still have quite a bit of snow between here and up in Minnesota that will melt in the next few days,” he said. “It’s not over by any means.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Big chunks of river ice break apart as they hit the Canadian National Railroad bridge across the Des Moines River after the ice lock above the Hydroelectric Dam broke apart Thursday afternoon.

In Hamilton County, the Boone River has mostly stayed within its banks, Sheriff Doug Timmons said.

“I think the river is flowing pretty good. It’s probably bank full,” Timmons said. “Haven’t heard of any areas where it’s over the banks.

“We’ve had some of flooded roads last night, and I know a lot of those have gone down, but a few have water over them. People need to pay attention to their driving, and look further ahead. If there’s water on the road they need to, as the commercial says, ‘Turn around and don’t drown.”

He also warned the conditions could be dangerous for emergency workers.

“It’s going to be difficult for emergency vehicles to get down gravels,” Timmons said. “Just with the heavy trucks, the fire trucks and ambulances that are two-wheel-drive.”

Roads throughout the county are in bad shape, said Hamilton County Engineer Nicole Stinn.

“They’re terrible,” Stinn said. “Right now, obviously, we’ve had rain and a lot of melting snow, and there’s nowhere for the water to go, so it sits on the roads and makes them soft, or floods the road.”

About 12 roads have a closure in effect.

Hamilton County’s closures are posted online at iowacountyroads.org.

Calhoun County has the same flooding problems.

“It’s just like all the other counties,” said Emergency Management Coordinator Steve O’Connor. “Lots of water.”

There are some secondary roads closed, he said, and the Raccoon River has an ice jam west of Rockwell City.

“The drainage ditches, if they’re not full they will soon be full,” O’Connor said. “The creeks are full.

“The big thing is, like a lot of other counties that have a lot of livestock, these gravel roads are terrible. It’s very difficult for them to get feed trucks to these facilities loading out,” he said. “So that’s really putting a stressor on our producers.”

In Pocahontas County, Emergency Management Coordinator Russ Jergens said several gravel roads have been closed due to water over the roads.

“The melting snow and the ice chunks are creating ice jams which are backing up the water,” he said. “We had an excavator trying to open up some of the dredge ditches this morning.”

Sac County Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Bullock reported much of the same.

“We’ve got a number of secondary roads that are flooded,” he said.

Staff Writer Peter Kaspari contributed to this report