Floods of 2008 remembered

2008 was an active weather year. The summer began with the Parkersburg tornado, but as people were busy cleaning up in Parkersburg, New Hartford, Dunkerton and many other areas along the tornado’s path, more storms were tracking in.

Rain, and a lot of it, fell over the KWWL viewing area… and points to the north.

But that wasn’t the beginning… Mother Nature had been prepping us for record flooding long beforehand.

The previous Winter’s snowfall was above normal. There was over a foot of snow on the ground in many areas at the end of February. We also had above normal spring rainfall. Several cities north of Highway 30 reported more than 8 inches of rainfall in April alone!

Winter’s snowmelt, along with Spring’s rainfall, caused rivers to rise above normal levels and the ground was saturated going through May. The storm system that produced the EF-5 tornado that affected Parkersburg and New Harford also brought heavy rainfall.

Repeated rounds of heavy rainfall in the first two weeks of June added to the nightmare. Rivers rose rapidly and to record levels.

Cities affected by the 2008 floods were:

Decorah and Dorchester on the Upper Iowa River….

Spillville, Fort Atkinson and Elkader on the Turkey River…

Monticello and Manchester on the Maquoketa….

Tripoli, Independence and Anamosa on the Wapsipinicon…

(Olin and Oxford Junction were spared major flooding due to a levee breach upstream)

Waverly, Janesville, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Vinton, Palo and Cedar Rapids on the Cedar…

Iowa City and Coralville on the Iowa River.

Many other places were flooded due to high levels on creeks and streams that were swollen from the heavy rains and couldn’t empty into the already high major riverways.

With this round of flooding, the Mississippi River largely behaved itself, although Dubuque did have a few rounds of flash flooding.

River flooding and flash flooding can both cause major problems, but they are different. River flooding can last for weeks, while flash flooding is much faster… and can occur in any state at any time of the day or night.

Safety is important in both flooding and flash flooding. When a watch is in place, you should know where you will go if a warning is issued. Move to higher ground… NEVER walk through floodwaters. It only takes 6 inches of fast moving water to sweep you off of your feet.

And NEVER, EVER drive through flooded roadways. It only takes two feet of fast moving water to float most vehicles… including SUVs and pickups. And the road may no longer be there… which can affect more than just the river community.

In 2008, Highway 150 washed out between Vinton and Urbana which prompted a long detour for weeks!

If you are unsure if you are in a potential flood zone, check out the Inundation Map that was developed at the University of Iowa after the 2008 floods.

Some snowfall reports and photos from an early February heavy snow event can be found on Schnack’s Blog here.

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