Flooding in Ashton

Otter Creek looks like a lake as it flows through Ashton on Thursday, June 21, following heavy rains overnight.

REGIONAL—Another thrash of heavy rainfall overwhelmed drain systems, raised waters and swamped fields in N’West Iowa this week, prompting Gov. Kim Reynolds to issue a disaster proclamation on Thursday, June 21, for nine counties, including Lyon, O’Brien and Osceola.

Many plains in the area looked like lakes as water gushed over roads in areas and even swept some vehicles into ditches.

The disaster proclamation means some residents in the nine counties affected may apply for the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program. This program provides grants of up to $5,000 for qualifying households.

For O’Brien County residents, the deadline to apply for the disaster assistance program for is Aug. 2. For residents of Lyon and Osceola counties, the deadline is Aug. 6.

West of Highway 60

With the Rock River rising 18 inches in Rock Rapids, and 5 inches of rain falling overnight Wednesday into Thursday, the scene was set for another flood.

Some properties were soggy and submerged on Thursday, and the river was flowing swiftly through town. Parts of Island Park were under water and standing pools of water were seen in numerous locations.

However, the city took the experience from record flooding four years ago into account and started monitoring the Rock River on Wednesday evening.

“We take flooding seriously,” said Tim Boekhout, a lineman for Rock Rapids Utilities who was monitoring the river Thursday afternoon.

He said the river already had reached its crest and was in the process of receding.

The Doon Sawmill and Doon Welding were two businesses that were partly underwater on Thursday.

Doon Welding co-owner Ken Vink said the water greeted them when they arrived to work that morning. They watched the water level rise at least a foot and a half in just four hours, moving closer and closer to their place of business.

“I have never seen it rise this fast,” Vink said.

However, Vink did not seem worried. He said they learned their lesson in 2014, and spent part of Thursday lifting equipment off of the floor of their shop.

Doon mayor Tim Mantel said fortunately the town itself did not flood as Doon is higher up than Vink’s business.

“We were not expecting this much,” he said.

While residents within the boundaries of the small Lyon County town were free from flood waters, the rural residents and businesses were not so lucky. Mantel said normally when rural residents get flooded, people in Doon and the fire department band together to help their neighbors out. They did not have to do that as of Thursday evening.

McKinley Avenue, directly north of Sheldon, was overflowing with water Thursday morning.

Iowa State Patrol officer Vince Kurtz was guarding a barricade, preventing motorists from driving into the rapid flowing water of the Floyd River.

“Never drive through water on a road,” Kurtz said. “It might not be deep, but if it is moving quickly, your vehicle can be swept away.”

The McKinley Avenue flood waters were right beside the yard and home of Sheldon resident Tony Hulstein.

“I’ve lived here since 1949, and I have never seen this,” Hulstein said.

The Floyd River was not flooding Wednesday night, he said.

“It was a surprise to me,” Hulstein said. “I know we get a lot of rain, but I have never seen it over the road before.”

His house was up high enough that Hulstein was not too concerned about getting flooded.

East of Highway 60

Osceola County Emergency Management coordinator Dan Bechler said three Sibley residents were forced to stay in a local hotel because their homes were too flooded to stay in Wednesday evening. One resident had to be rescued from her home.

“We’ve got all sorts of houses, some with water to the top rung of the basement stairs,” Bechler said. “We’ve been pumping out the sewer to try and keep up. Basically, that’s all you can do.”

The area of town west of the railroad tracks was “just a lake,” according to Bechler. Responders went door-to-door checking on residents living near the town landfill.

As the water continues to rush Southward, Sibley is seeing some signs of relief, according to Bechler.

He noted one danger to be aware of when dealing with a flooded basement that is sometimes overlooked is the risk of electrocution.

“The big thing is when you get that much water in your basement is when it gets on your breaker panels,” he said. “That basement that was flooded up to the top — the breaker panel is underneath all of that water.”

A branch of Otter Creek flowing from the Highway 60 expressway south of Sibley through Ashton was completely overflown on Thursday morning. The basin between the Ashton elevator and Northwest Boulevard in Ashton filled end-to-end and continued that way south past the POET Biorefining over six miles away. Water even rose above the railroad tracks at times. The ethanol plant was completely surrounded with parts of nearby Highway 60 running over at times.

Ashton Fire Department chief Andy Gacke was called to an accident involving a vehicle being swept off of the road at 230th Street and McKinley Avenue in the early hours of Thursday morning. He said the driver had already gotten out of the vehicle by the time he arrived.

Two vehicles were submerged up to the windows in a similar incident south of Ashton in the northbound ditch.

Despite the high waters, Gacke said drinking water in Ashton has not been compromised at this point.

A week after experiencing flooding at the Sheldon Golf & Country Club, another unwelcome slew of water overtook virtually the entire course, leaving only a pair of tee boxes untouched. Country Club Road also was under water in spots.

“I don’t know what to say, just pray,” said clubhouse manager Lynn Shoberg. “When this is over we’re going to need volunteers.”

Along Highway 18 west of Hartley, flooding near the Valero Renewable Fuels plant caused motorists to exercise extra caution. Water still was peaking near the top of the ditches on Thursday morning.

In Hartley, water pumps were running at several locations on the south side of town in an attempt to prevent sewer backup. St. Paul Lutheran Church near downtown Hartley had about 3 inches spill into the education wing and fellowship hall. A restoration company was at work cleaning up the mess on Thursday.