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Torrential Rains, Flooding Swamp Midwestern Spring

DES MOINES, Iowa, June 9, 2008 (ENS) – After a miserable stormy spring, more severe weather, tornadoes, floods, and heavy rains wreaked havoc across the Plains on the weekend. And the high water and storm conditions continue today.

Iowa Governor Chet Culver has activated the state’s emergency operations center and put 31 counties under an emergency proclamation.

Utility crews battled rain and high winds to return electrical service to thousands of eastern Iowans left in the dark after a string of thunderstorms rolled across the region, dumping more rain into overflowing streams.

Two weeks to the day after being smashed by the tornado that leveled half of the nearby town of Parkersburg, residents of New Hartford were evacuated Sunday night as Beaver Creek overflowed its banks flooding 85 percent of the small city.

Shortly before 9 pm Sunday, the city issued a statement saying the sheriff and fire chief authorized MidAmerican Energy to shut off gas and electric service to New Hartford to provide for the safety of New Hartford residents.

New Hartford evacuees, some rescued by boat, were transported to the Red Cross shelter in Cedar Falls at the University of Northern Iowa.


Floodwaters inundate Iowa City, June 8,
2008. (Photo credit unknown)

After a levee broke along the Winnebago River, the water treatment plant in Mason City, Iowa was shut down Sunday morning because of flooding, leaving a supply of about a day and a half of water. Residents have been asked not to use any water and to stay off the streets, unless they are evacuating, officials said.

Steve O’Neil, the emergency coordinator for the Iowa counties of Cerro Gordo and Franklin, says the river is running at a record level, so people who live near waterways should consider evacuating.

Officials warn that the Coralville Reservoir, which collects water from the Iowa River watershed, could top its spillway and by Tuesday flood Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will lose control of water coming out of Coralville Lake when the release rate is increased to its scheduled 20,000 cubic feet per second. “Once we go to 20,000 that’s about all we can let out,” lake operations manager John Castle said.

Levels for the Iowa River are predicted to be similar to those seen in the flood of 1993. Officials are urging people to take protective measures and prepare to vacate the area if necessary.

“It’s within the realm of possibility we meet or exceed ’93 levels,” Iowa City Police Sgt. Troy Kelsay said. “This is not going to go away this weekend. This is not going to go away this week. The community needs to be prepared for an extended event.”

Iowa City Public Works Director Rick Fosse told reporters that he expects the river level to rise three feet this weekend and five feet by Tuesday. Forecasters say as much as four inches of rain could hit the area in the next five days.

Heavy rain and flooding continues through the Upper Midwest, across southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Over the weekend, destructive and potentially life-threatening tornadoes, severe weather and thunderstorms spread eastward into the southeast half of Missouri, Illinois, eastern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.

Strong thunderstorms spun off it least one tornado, perhaps several, in eastern Nebraska’s Douglas and Sarpy counties early Sunday morning, with some of the severe weather striking the state’s largest city.

Dozens of homes and businesses in Omaha are damaged, and half-a-dozen homes were destroyed, but no injuries are reported.

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