High Water and the Red Bridge
Severe weather began in Jasper County on June 14, 2018, and would continue for two days. The storms caused severe flooding in Jasper as well as Boone, Dallas, and Polk counties. Governor Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation, opening up funding to the affected counties.
Heavy rain had already been falling in Jasper County all summer. The water tables were higher than usual, causing flash flooding in homes and farmland across the county.
The June 14 storm series caused the South Skunk River to crest at 18.3 ft, which is two feet above the flood stage, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The Colfax levy was not breached, but standing water was present at the County Fairgrounds.
Bob Rhone, Colfax Public Works Director, commented that teams were working every hour of the day to keep water from the wastewater treatment plant, as well as minimizing how much water flooded the fairgrounds.
In nearby Prairie City, Joe Bartello, city manager, was also dealing with the flood’s impacts. “It had already saturated the ground enough and the heavy rain this weekend capped this off,” Bartello said.
Baxter, another Jasper County city, lost some of their drinking water pumping equipment.
Jim Sparks, the Jasper County Emergency Management Coordinator, noted that 300 to 350 homes were damaged in the county, mostly due to excessive rainfall and basement flooding. Across central Iowa, more than 1,500 buildings were impacted by the heavy rain.
The Red Bridge, built in 1892, was on the list of structures impacted by the flood. The bridge crosses the South Skunk River near Reasoner and leads to Fairview and is the only truss bridge in Jasper County. The 2018 floodwaters were high enough to bring debris close enough to scrape the bottom of the bridge.
1947 floods had previously damaged the bridge. The steel cylinder piers were destroyed and replaced with concrete. The bridge, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was in the process of being moved to Colfax, but the 2018 floods interfered with the process.
Sources: on-line: Mike Mendenhall, “Jasper County Flooding Included in Gov Reynolds disaster proclamation,” Newton Daily News, 2018; Luke Nozicka, “More than 1,500 properties reportedly affected by central Iowa flooding, officials say,” Des Moines Register, 2018; “Historic Jasper County Bridge Affected by Flooding,” 13Whotv, 2018; “Red Bridge,” Historic Bridges of Iowa, Iowa DOT, 1990; image: PreservationIowa.