REGIONAL—Heavy rains again saturated N’West Iowa this week, flooding roads and basements and fields and streams.
Midweek flooding forced the closure of the Highway 60 expressway south of Alton near the Floyd River, which was inundated with rainfall upstream in Sheldon after it received 5.3 inches of precipitation Wednesday night into Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
Both lanes were closed around 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
“There was just so much rain,” said John Jepsen, district maintenance manager with the Iowa Department of Transportation. “The rain varied from 2-14 inches from what I’ve heard. The water is receding right now.”
Jepsen predicted the highway would reopen Friday afternoon, but at the time of the print deadline it remained closed.
“This has been a very strange flood so it has been a guessing game,” Jepsen said. “There was so much water it’s hard to predict what is going to happen. The rain slows down then you have this big wall of water come through.”
The Floyd River near Alton crested at a record high Thursday evening. The river reached 21.96 feet, more than 5 feet above moderate flooding level.
The previous record of 20.5 feet was set in June.
Alton city administrator Dale Oltmans said three major city streets had to be closed Thursday night including Third Avenue which is the main road that runs through Alton off of the Highway 60 expressway.
“Flooding tore the shoulder off the road,” Oltmans said. “We need to get the bridge inspected to make sure it’s safe.”
Third Avenue will remain closed at least until Monday.
Also affected are Kingbird Avenue west of Highway 60, 2 miles northeast of Alton, and 480th Street and Highway 60, 2 miles northeast of Alton.
Oltmans said it has been a long couple of days but a group effort has helped limit problems.
“It took a lot of work and a lot of cooperation from local contractors,” he said. “We were able to keep the sewage out of basements. We also had that little shower with high winds. We’re going to do some cleanup.”
Officials with the MOC-Floyd Valley School District, which includes Alton, postponed the start of classes on Thursday morning to allow more time for transportation of students due to so many roads being closes by flooding.
MOC-Floyd Valley superintendent Russ Adams and transportation director John Van Wyk talked around 6 a.m. Thursday about the flooding issues across the region, which led the school district to implement a two-hour late start.
“The idea of buses pulling up in the dark on muddy, wet gravel roads — as soft as those are — was not a good thing,” Adams said. “We just thought waiting two hours and letting it get lighter and letting people figure out what they were dealing with was worth the time.”
The Sioux County Sheriff’s Department on Friday morning urged motorists to take caution on more than 30 roads that were flooded or previously had water over them.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reported severe flooding caused multiple wastewater and manure discharges across N’West Iowa.
“About 18 communities from Alton to Sioux Center have reported discharges from their wastewater treatments plants due to intense rains,” said Lois Benson, environmental specialist at DNR’s Spencer field office.
Benson added that 26 livestock operations reported overflowing of manure storage systems, most of which are in Lyon, Sioux, O’Brien and Clay counties.
“We’re telling them to hold the overflow as best they can and try to prevent it from reaching a stream,” Benson said. “Some are transferring it to other areas. Some are trying to contain it behind terraces.”
Livestock producers who expect to discharge are being asked to call the Spencer DNR field office at 712-262-4177.
Andy Williams, director of public affairs for BNSF Railway, said he is monitoring the flooding in N’West Iowa but is unaware of any issues that may impact train schedules at the time of print.
In June, a BNSF freighter derailed due to flooded tracks south of Doon and spilled 160,000 gallons of crude oil.
“When we had the derailment, there was an area there — a triangle area that is kind of where the rest of our cleanup is remaining,” Williams said. “They had to cease cleanup because of floodwaters there. We sealed up the culverts so any floodwaters in that triangle cannot escape.”