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Flooding woes continue in Midwest after another levee breach

Major flooding in downtown Davenport, Iowa on April 30, 2019. (Photo: QC Drone Photography)

A temporary levee along the Mississippi River broke in Davenport, Iowa on April 30, not able to handle the heavy rainfall that occurred on the last two days of April. Davenport is a city of around 100,000 people on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Roads were closed in the downtown area due to significant flooding, and some businesses had to shut down. People were trapped in their homes and cars, and emergency crews used boats to rescue them.

“Well I didn’t know how I was going to get out until the firefighters came to our apartment and actually put me on a boat to get me out of there, so I am very thankful for them,” Alex Moore told Des Moines’ WHO-TV. Moore lives in Davenport and said his apartment building was surrounded by about four feet of water.

“You know, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m fresh out of college…so I don’t have much food in my fridge. I wouldn’t say helpless…I was a little concerned where I was going to get my next meal from,” Moore added.

He was also concerned for the downtown businesses affected by the flooding. “I feel terrible. I mean, there’s a lot of businesses around here that unfortunately went out. I saw Front Street Brewery was closing its doors indefinitely. Been there a lot of times…feel bad about that. There’s the River Front Brewery as well and it’s just sad. Unfortunate for those businesses, they didn’t deserve that.”

The water came rushing in at East River Drive (US-67) where the temporary levee could not stand the extreme pressure of the river, which has been at an elevated level for weeks. The temporary levee, made up of HESCO barriers, had kept Davenport dry all spring until the failure on Tuesday.

The barriers are essentially metal cages lined with plastic that are filled with sand or gravel. They were placed on top of two of the existing levees, adding several feet of flood protection. Each Hesco barrier is the equivalent of about 1,500 sandbags. According to a Fox News report on Tuesday, Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch said no injuries had been reported as a result of the flooding.

The National Weather Service (NWS) sent an alert around 4:00 p.m. CDT of a flash flood emergency in Davenport. The alert urged people downtown to seek higher ground immediately, and many were evacuated.

 Mississippi River stage at Rock Island, Illinois (near Davenport, Iowa), 11:00 a.m. CDT on May 1, 2019. (Source: NOAA)
Mississippi River stage at Rock Island, Illinois (near Davenport, Iowa), 11:00 a.m. CDT on May 1, 2019. (Source: NOAA)

At 10:00 a.m. today (May 1, 2019), the river was up to 22.25 feet in the Davenport area, the fifth-highest reading ever recorded for the location, and just shy of the record crest of 22.6 feet, which was set in July 1993. The official gauge for Davenport is just a few miles across the Mississippi River in Rock Island, Illinois. As of 11:00 a.m. today, the NWS is forecasting the river to remain at major flood stage in Davenport for at least another weeThe Midwest has been plagued with major and historic flooding ever since a major storm hit the region in mid-March. Major to moderate flooding is still taking place in South Dakota, along the James and Big Sioux rivers, as well as along other tributaries in Kansas, Minnesota and Missouri. Flooding along the Mississippi River extends all the way to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

 SONAR Road Conditions: 5:00 a.m. EDT, May 2, 2019. Many wet roads likely (colored in blue) as rain is forecast to return to the Midwest region. (Davenport, Iowa circled in red)
SONAR Road Conditions: 5:00 a.m. EDT, May 2, 2019. Many wet roads likely (colored in blue) as rain is forecast to return to the Midwest region. (Davenport, Iowa circled in red)

Some sections of I-29 in western Iowa are still closed because of flooding, but other Interstate highways in the Midwest look fine at this time. Union Pacific Railroad (NYSE: UNP) has made a great deal of progress reopening tracks, but said in an April 18, 2019 customer letter that issues continue at the Falls City subdivision (Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Kansas City, Kansas). The rail bridge over the Platte River is estimated to reopen in the latter part of May. However, all local customers in the impacted area are receiving rail service. BNSF Railroad (NYSE: BRK.A), owned by Berkshire Hathaway, has two subdivisions that are totally or partially out of service, the Napier and Hannibal, according to the company’s latest outage map.

Periods of scattered showers and thunderstorms are likely across the Midwest from tonight through Friday, with the flood threat holding steady or getting worse in some areas. Get the latest NWS flood alert on this interactive map, and look for weather updates on the FreightWaves website.

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Nick Austin, Director of Weather Analytics and Senior Meteorologist

In his 17 years of weather forecasting experience, Nick worked on air at WBBJ-TV and WRCB-TV, including time spent doing weather analysis and field reporting. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from Georgia Institute of Technology. Nick is also a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” for eight consecutive years. Nick earned his National Weather Association Broadcasting Seal in 2005.

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