Des Moines County Flood of 2008
Des Moines County, Iowa
The flooding of 2008 was an act of nature that literally came in waves. Eighty-five of Iowa’s 99 counties were declared Federal Disaster Areas. Forty thousand people were affected and the rushing waters of the Cedar, Iowa, and Mississippi river basins did over $10 billion in damage.
The first wave began in the summer of 2007 with heavy rainfall that exacerbated the snow that piled on during the winter of 2007 to the already overly damp soil. More rainfall came during the spring and summer of 2008, some locations reporting 12 to 14 inches in just a two-week period.
The town of Mediapolis, Iowa, has a population of approximately 1,500 people and is surrounded by farmland. Some 12 miles away, the town of Oakville, Iowa, is home to the Iowa River Levee. Early June, 2008, the two communities came together to sandbag the levee in hopes of preventing a break that would wash over miles of farmland and cause damage to surrounding homes. Mediapolis community member, Ned Swygard posted this on a discussion board June 14, 2008:
“The Iowa River Levee broke at Oakville, Ia today. This will flood about 80 sq miles behind the Mississippi R levee and behind the Wife’s family cabin. The cabin has 12″ to go before it gets in the cabin. The Mississippi is suppose to crest Tues at additional 3 inches higher. The Iowa River levee break will relieve some of the height on the Mississippi. The Mississippi R had already broken the levee at Keithsberg, Ill relieving some of the height. Cedar River (which flooded Cedar Raplids) flows into the Iowa River at Colombous Jct, Ia about 50 miles from Oakville. Levees will break at Colombous Jct. The Iowa R goes thru Iowa City and oldest boy and family evacuated from Iowa City yesterday. The levee below Iowa City will probably break within a couple of days flooding to Lone Tree all great Iowa farm land. Price of corn will jump.” – Ned S
In response, other online community members reached out and surveyed the damage from their locations. An individual by the name of “kmcred” responded on June 14, 2008:
“It is REAL bad on the Miss. R…. It has been a huge struggle to move corn on the river all spring due to flooding. Earlier this spring several barges broke loose hitting a railroad bridge and also the bridge into Burlington, Ia shutting down the highway until inspectors could arrive…. it is a long way around to the next bridge! I-80 was closed Fri from Davenport to Iowa City due to the flooding. The river is forecasted to crest at nearly 26 feet in Burlington which surpasses historic levels. Of about two dozen duck blinds on our section of the pool, only 3 or 4 remained after the flooding a month ago. I don’t imagine anything will be left now….”
On June 15th, the Stevenson Lake levee, approximately twenty miles from Mediapolis near Gulfport, Illinois, broke bringing down the levels of the Mississippi river and leaving the town of 200 completely under water.
While communities like Burlington and Mediapolis slowly recovered from the 2008 flooding, some areas took years to reconstruct or were abandoned altogether.