Record flooding inundates northwest Iowa, prompts evacuations, isolates one city (2024)

Historic flooding struck parts of Iowa over the weekend, damaging nearly 2,000 properties and prompting evacuations and disaster declarations.

"I can tell you that the devastation is severe and it's widespread," Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said at a news conference Sunday afternoon in Des Moines.

Flooding on Saturday and overnight into Sunday was the result not just of direct rain — some areas measured 15 inches in two days, Reynolds said — but also of overflowing rivers' flooding dry communities downstream, National Weather Service meteorologist Roger Vachalek said.

Precipitation drawn north from the Gulf of Mexico and parked over northwest Iowa and neighboring states was then unleashed in a clash with a cool, low-pressure wave moving from west to east, he said.

Record flooding inundates northwest Iowa, prompts evacuations, isolates one city (1)

An official tally for weather-related deaths over the weekend was not yet available. In Tucson, Arizona, fire officials said a motorist stranded in monsoonal floodwaters was declared dead Saturday when first responders discovered her lifeless body.

In South Dakota, an 87-year-old man driving a utility task vehicle — a golf cart-size conveyance with off-road capability — died when it rolled down an embankment created by a washed-out roadway near Harrisburg on Saturday, the South Dakota Highway Patrol said in a statement.

Areas affected by direct rain or overflowing rivers also included southern Minnesota and southeastern Dakota, according to the National Weather Service.

The weekend rain fell on already saturated ground, making flooding fast and widespread in the northwest corner of Iowa. Reynolds indicated that farmland was hit hard.

There were enough rain and river swelling in the Des Moines, Rock and Little Sioux rivers, among others, to break flood level records at 16 locations in Iowa, Reynolds said.

More than 1,000 Iowans needed shelter overnight, 1,900 properties across the state were damaged, and hundreds of residential properties were destroyed, she said.

Some cities did not have working clean water systems Sunday, and some had sewage system failures, she said. Disaster declarations covered 25 Iowa counties by nightfall Sunday.

Spencer, a city of more than 11,000, was cut off from the rest of the state by floodwater overnight as hundreds were evacuated to two city shelters, Mayor Steve Bomgaars said.

Spencer Fire Chief Jesse Coulson said city first responders, with the mutual-aid help of neighboring departments, made 383 rescues since the first one related to floodwater was reported at 5:15 a.m. Saturday.

Record flooding inundates northwest Iowa, prompts evacuations, isolates one city (2)

One person was missing, Coulson said at a news conference Sunday where Bomgaars also spoke. Coulson indicated the missing could be recovered from a flooded vehicle after waters recede.A nighttime curfew for the city was to return Sunday, Bomgaars said, as authorities were expected to fan out and check on residents cut off by floodwaters after they recede a few feet.

On Friday, city and county officials expected the Little Sioux River to crest at 17.5 feet but said it did so multiple feet higher. The crest level was an estimate, however.

"The electronic gauge that the Iowa Flood Center put in was under water," Clay County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Eric Tigges said at the Spencer news conference. "That makes it difficult for us to get an accurate reading."

He and city officials believe the river crested at 22.1 feet, beating a record set in 1953 by about 2 feet. With that number falling, some roads were passable and residents could get out with careful planning, officials said.

"We're going to recover from this," Bomgaars said.

In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem declared a statewide emergency and said the worst of the flooding would come Monday and Tuesday by river.

The Big Sioux River in South Dakota was expected to crest Sunday night, and state officials closed Interstate 29 in the southeastern part of the state to build a temporary levee across it, they said in a statement.

The threat of severe thunderstorms remained, with the director of Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management, John Benson, urging residents to stay vigilant.

Record flooding inundates northwest Iowa, prompts evacuations, isolates one city (3)

The Des Moines River at Humboldt, a small city about 105 miles north of Des Moines, was forecast to crest Wednesday at 17 feet, more than a foot higher than its record in 1969, according to the National Weather Service. On Sunday it flowed more than a foot above flood stage, the agency said.The rain and swelling waterways contrasted with persistent heat in much of the rest of the country on the first weekend of summer. Heat alerts covered an estimated 95 million people in the U.S. on Sunday, with near-record high temperatures — 5 to 15 degrees above normal — expected to remain at least through the early part of the week.

As high pressure baked the mid-Atlantic, where record temperatures were expected Sunday and Monday, the Southwest broiled in sometimes triple-digit temperatures, and parts of the Northeast were expected to experience brief rain and thunderstorms alongside high temperatures.

Another cool wave moving in from the West was expected to clash with warm, wet air stationed over the Great Plains and the Midwest, triggering the possibility of more severe thunderstorms, federal forecasters said.

Rain, wind, hail and flooding were possible again beginning Monday night for northern Iowa, as well as for northern Missouri, northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, southwest Lower Michigan, northern Indiana and northwestern Ohio, they said.

"It's not going to cease," Benson, the Iowa emergency management director, said of the flooding, thunder and rain. "It's going to blossom."

Dennis Romero

Dennis Romero is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.

Record flooding inundates northwest Iowa, prompts evacuations, isolates one city (2024)


Why is NW Iowa flooding? ›

Northwest Iowa was beset by record flooding over the weekend after extreme rainfall, leading to a disaster proclamation from Gov. Kim Reynolds and the evacuation of thousands of residents. Some parts of Iowa received more than 15 inches of rain, causing water levels to surge and levees to fail.

What town flooded in Iowa? ›

Spencer, a town of around 11,000 residents, saw record-high river levels, killing at least one person and damaging hundreds of homes in the process. The city sits at the convergence of the Little Sioux and Ocheyedan rivers, the latter of which surpassed its record set in 1953 by 4 feet.

What caused the floods in Iowa? ›

DES MOINES, Iowa – Catastrophic flooding continues to impact the Midwest after days of torrential rain caused rivers and streams to overflow their banks, forcing residents to flee their homes and seek higher ground as water destroyed roads and bridges and even led to the partial failure of a dam.

What is causing the Midwest flooding? ›

In the Midwest, flooding isn't new. Nor is heavy rain in June. And linking any particular big rainstorm to climate change is difficult, Winkley said. But, as greenhouse gases warm the planet, the hotter atmosphere can hold more water.

When was the last big flood in Iowa? ›

+The 2008 Flood. Many people agree that from a statewide perspective the Great Flood of 1993 and the 2008 Flood were the worst modern-day floods in Iowa history.

What is the problem with the water in Iowa? ›

Common pollutants

In Iowa, sediment is the leading nonpoint source pollutant. Most sediment in Iowa comes from agricultural practices, such as cropland tillage and livestock in pastures, woodlands and feedlots. High levels of eroded sediment also come from construction sites, streambanks and lake shorelines.

What is causing all these floods? ›

Heavy rainfall. Ocean waves coming on shore, such as a storm surge. Melting snow and ice, as well as ice jams. Dams or levees breaking.

What caused the 2008 flood in Iowa? ›

With extremely wet soils and rivers already running high, two heavy rainfall events occurred in early June. These events saw the rain turn almost completely into runoff as saturated soils left no storage for the water.

Why are there so many floods this year? ›

Why are floods hitting more places and people? Global warming from climate change means more evaporation and more moisture in the atmosphere, which means rainfall can be intensified. And intense rainfall and changing landscapes make for more disastrous floods.

What is most likely to cause a flood? ›

The most common cause of flooding is water due to rain and/or snowmelt that accumulates faster than soils can absorb it or rivers can carry it away. Approximately seventy-five percent of all Presidential disaster declarations are associated with flooding.

Why the flood is happening? ›

Floods can happen during heavy rains, when ocean waves come on shore, when snow melts quickly, or when dams or levees break.

What caused the River Don to flood? ›

Flooding events of the River Don in Sheffield are primarily caused by excessive rainfall, especially when combined with high groundwater levels and saturated soil conditions.

What's causing all the flooding? ›

Climate change's role

“Extreme precipitation is getting more frequent with warmer climate in many regions globally,” said Kornhuber. “A recent study suggests that climate change is increasing the frequency and magnitude of such storm sequences that impact California.”

What caused the Lawn Lake flood? ›

The flood caused by the failure of Lawn Lake Dam scoured Roaring River valley and deposited an alluvial fan of debris in Horseshoe Park. Lawn Lake Dam was an earthen dam in Rocky Mountain National Park, United States that failed on July 15, 1982, at about 6 a.m., in an event known as the flood of 1982.

Why are so many cities flooding? ›

While climate change is increasing flood hazard in many locations, population growth in coastal areas and historic floodplains is increasing exposure. As more people move to cities and urban areas, many of them in coastal counties, there is a growing demand for housing, commercial properties, and infrastructure.

What state is most prone to flooding? ›

As a result of their exposure to hurricanes coming from the Gulf of Mexico, Florida and its neighbors on the Gulf Coast are among the states that have sustained the most flooding damage to federally insured properties since 1978, according to the USAFacts report.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Tuan Roob DDS

Last Updated:

Views: 5709

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (42 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tuan Roob DDS

Birthday: 1999-11-20

Address: Suite 592 642 Pfannerstill Island, South Keila, LA 74970-3076

Phone: +9617721773649

Job: Marketing Producer

Hobby: Skydiving, Flag Football, Knitting, Running, Lego building, Hunting, Juggling

Introduction: My name is Tuan Roob DDS, I am a friendly, good, energetic, faithful, fantastic, gentle, enchanting person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.