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Flooding in Iowa Reaches Record Levels

BY Admin  June 13, 2008 at 1:00 PM EDT

Flooding in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa; AP photo

“We made the decision to evacuate our patients into what we consider to be a safer environment,” Mercy Medical Center’s President Tim Charles said, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “We were concerned with the possibility of the flood breaching the facility that our backup power system could be compromised.

“Quite frankly, if that were to occur, that would be catastrophic for our patients. We wanted to ensure their safety.”

The city has been particularly hard hit. The Associated Press has reported that more than 3,000 homes have been emptied amid a city in which more than 400 blocks remain underwater.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported in Iowa, but one man was killed in southern Minnesota after his car plunged from a washed-out road into floodwaters, according to news agencies.

Officials said they expect the Cedar River to crest late in the day Friday, at about thirty-two feet, dramatically higher than the last major flood which reached only 19 feet.

Throughout the state, the governor of Iowa has said nine rivers have reached or are near record levels and 83 of 99 counties in the state are currently classified as disaster areas.

Parts of Cedar Rapids also faced shortages of drinking water with only one of the city’s six wells in proper functioning order.

“If we lost that one we would be in serious trouble. Basically we are using more water than we are producing,” Dave Koch, a spokesman for the Cedar Rapids fire department, said. “We really need to reduce the amount of water we are using … even using paper plates, hand sanitizer.”

In other parts of the state, like Des Moines, citizen volunteers and National Guard members have been doing everything possible to shore up vulnerable levees to prevent any major flooding, including adding 60,000 sandbags to a particularly weak spot along the levee wall protecting a neighborhood in the city.

A similar situation is being played out on the Fond du Lac River in Iowa, the Fox River in northern Illinois and along the northern areas of the Missouri River. All are facing the prospect of rising water from rivers that can no longer contain the rush of water as these rivers crest, starting Friday, and continuing into early next week.

While Cedar Rapids may be facing the worst trial of the flood late Friday, the prospect of a flooding Missouri river this weekend and the possibility of the Mississippi flooding next week is stirring continued concern over the spate of weather problems.

People in several northern Missouri communities piled up sandbags to prepare for possible Missouri River flooding over the weekend, with a more significant rise in the Mississippi River expected Wednesday.