Peoples' Weather Map


The Missouri River Flood of 2011

The Missouri River, Woodbury County, Iowa

Barbara Eckstein


For anyone who experienced the flood and polio epidemic of 1952, the events would be unforgettable.  For those too young to recall 1952, “flood” in Woodbury County may recall for some the 1990 flood of the pesky Perry Creek in Sioux City.  But most will remember the 2011 flood on the Missouri when torrential rains inundated the upper Missouri River valley and water was controversially released from the dams on the upper river to mitigate flooding there in the north but causing severe flooding in Iowa and Nebraska downstream.  The dams did give Woodbury County residents some time to plan for the onslaught—wellheads and pumping stations could be protected, for example–, but years later officials were still considering how they might better have handled the situation. While Emergency Services Director Gary Brown documented flood levels, property damage and efforts to provide protection every day of the months-long flood of 2011, he stated after the fact that communication could have been better among government agencies.  Thinking ahead, the city later raised wellheads and redirected sewer lines

Although an epidemic did not follow on the heels of the 2011 flood, there was much to challenge the resilience of many Woodbury County residents and many more Missouri River Valley residents.  The whole of the territory experienced $2billion in damages; some 4,000 homes were flooded; and five people lost their lives. While government agencies were reconsidering best practices, residents were getting their hearts and minds around the losses they had experienced.


Sources:  Brett Hayworth, “It’s Been 25 Years Since Perry Creek Changed Sioux City,” The Sioux City Journal, May 18, 2015, on line; Nick Hytrek, “Sioux City Planning for the Next Big Flood,” The Sioux City Journal, June 27, 2013 on line; Alan J. Bartels and Matthew Spencer, “The Great Flood of 2011,” Nebraska Life Magazine, May/June 2012 on line.