Southwest Iowa communities hopeful as floodwaters recede

Southwest Iowa communities hopeful as floodwaters recede
Washington St. in Hamburg, Iowa was still under water Wednesday. (World-Herald News Service)

Residents of Thurman, Iowa, were being allowed back into town Wednesday after floodwaters from the Missouri River got no closer than a quarter mile.

“I talked with the mayor of Thurman, and we decided to lift the mandatory evacuation order,” said Mike Crecelius, director of Fremont County Emergency Management. “We had issued the evacuation order because the water was rising so swiftly, but the town has stayed dry.”

Some residents of Mills County also are being allowed to return to their homes, according to notices posted by the Mills County Board and the county’s emergency management agency.

The lifting of the mandatory evacuation order includes unincorporated areas from Mills County to the Pottawattamie County line. The area is bordered on the south by Allis Road, the Loess Hills to the east and the Missouri River to the west.

The city of Glenwood in Mills County issued an order Tuesday for residents to boil drinking water after the town’s water treatment facility lost power. Officials said the water is safe for bathing.

In Iowa, water broke through four levees that protect Fremont and Mills Counties, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ National Levee Database. The flooding affected thousands of peoples and millions of dollars of property.

Crecelius said officials are just beginning to tabulate the cost of the flood. The current focus, he said, is keeping people safe.

“One thing that I bring up every time is the barriers and signs we put up to keep people out of dangerous areas are for their own safety,” Crecelius said. “Then we find people tearing them down and driving places where it’s hazardous to their health. A road could give way, and there would be no way for us to know someone was in trouble.”

The south end of Hamburg, plus the towns of Percival, McPaul and Bartlett, are among other southwest Iowa spots that were evacuated because of Missouri River flooding.

Two-thirds of the residents of Hamburg remained out of their homes Wednesday, Crecelius said. About half the town is underwater. It has lost its water, sewer and natural gas service, he said.

“The thing that I keep repeating is that Hamburg is the focal point,” Crecelius said. “Currently, the river is going down and the water is receding. We hope that remains the case.”

A barrier south of town actually breached toward the Missouri River, he said. That is allowing the water in the town of 1,200 people to begin to drain and return to the river.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will be using “alternative and expedited permitting procedures” to authorize flood-related repairs to its levee system. The goal is to send out levee repair forms in the next week so that sponsors can begin the process of requesting repairs if needed.