Flood of 1962
Ida Grove, Ida County, Iowa
While storms in 1891 deposited nine inches of rain on Ida Grove, the storms that visited seven decades later in 1962 deposited twelve inches of precipitation on the town. In less than thirty-eight hours, between the early morning of Thursday, August 30th, and the evening of Friday, August 31st, a record 12.05 inches of rain fell on the town of Ida Grove.
Ida Grove lies nestled between three waterways. The Maple River flanks the northwestern edge of town and the Odebolt and Badger creeks parallel one another and mark the town’s eastern and western limits respectively. Within just six hours of heavy rain during the first morning of the flood, the Odebolt Creek overflowed and began to inundate parts of Ida Grove. Both the Odebolt and Badger Creek crested by 10:00 p.m. on August 30th.
The local school district dismissed children early the morning of the flood and the schools remained closed on Friday. Lightning hit several homes during the two-day rainstorm, but did not cause any damage.
Odebolt and Badger Creek only overflowed for a total of 2.5 hours, but the floodwaters caused significant damage within this short period of time. Thirty-eight businesses ranging from feed stores to automobile garages reported flood damages. Floodwaters covered three-quarters of the local golf course and deposited eighteen inches of silt in some places. The floodwater also damaged sections of the Chicago & Northwestern railroad tracks near Ida Grove.
The rising water damaged the homes of at least ninety-three families and forced many Ida Grove residents to find new shelter. One home completely caved in from the eroding floodwaters. The Prine and Jacobs families both had to evacuate their homes along with Archie Percy and D. J. Rabe. A woman named Luelle Devine had to be brought to the local hospital to be treated for shock.
Water ran across many of the town’s streets and for several days people could only enter Ida Grove from the north via Highway 175. In a report compiled to assess flood damages soon after the flood, the City of Ida Grove notes:
The city had much expense during and after the flood. Extra men had to be stationed at streets to direct traffic while the water was over the streets. Boom trucks had to be hired at one of the bridges to keep the trees, rubbish and etc., from completely stopping the flow of water and from taking the bridge down the stream. Dynamite was used to help keep the flood water moving.
The citizens of Ida Grove began cleanup efforts the following morning even as the rain continued to fall. However their efforts were marked by frustration. The flood of 1962 agitated existing concerns about flooding in Ida Grove and led people to demand citywide flood control. Only a week after the flood, an Ida Grove resident wrote a short opinion piece in the Ida County Pioneer Record entitled “High Time for Flood Control.” The author notes that while the flooding of Odebolt Creek was not uncommon, the town did not expect the “docile little” Badger Creek to overflow. The agitated writer asks, “Don’t you suppose it’s about time to do something about the floods besides endure them and clean up?”
The town’s Report on the Flood Situation echoes the sentiment expressed in the local opinion column. The city assessers conclude, “The people of Ida Grove are willing to . . . do whatever is necessary to get our flood problem under control.”
So three years following the flood, in an attempt to reduce future flooding, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers changed the channel of the Odebolt Creek and constructed a series of dikes on both the Maple River and the Odebolt. The project cost $350,000 but did not address the flooding of Badger Creek. In the early 1980’s, Ida Grove independently funded and implemented a flood control system along Badger Creek.
Yet Ida Grove continues to struggle with floods even after the flood adaptation efforts of the 60’s and 80’s. The town appealed for funding to deal with floods in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2013.
Flood researchers at the University of Iowa recently determined that Iowans have been experiencing more floods in the past fifty years. After examining nearly 800 flood gauge records in the Central United States that contain data spanning from this flood in 1962 to the present, they concluded that the frequency of flooding has increased due to changes in temperature and precipitation.
As the atmosphere warms, it tends to hold more moisture and this disturbing pattern has contributed to the surge of recent floods in Ida Grove. Despite the town’s efforts to halt the flooding that displaces so many residents, it appears the increased frequency of flooding events will only continue as the atmospheric temperature rises.