Flooding woes in Clayton County

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By Shelia Tomkins

Clayton County residents dealt with rapidly rising water on rivers and streams last week as warmer temperatures led to melting of the heavy snow cover.

Flood watches and warnings were issued throughout the state on Thursday and Friday, March 14-15. In Clayton County, National Weather Service and local emergency management officials monitored gauges on the Turkey River.

The Turkey crested in Elkader at 18.45 feet overnight on Thursday. Flood stage there is 12 feet.

At Garber, flood stage on the Turkey is 17 feet, and a crest of 25.6 feet hit late Thursday. The bridge at Garber remained open to traffic. Major flood stage at Garber is 23 feet. In 2004, Garber saw a  historic crest of 32.8 feet.

Osterdock and Millville were the next to feel the effects of the crest, as a swiftly-moving Turkey River, filled with ice chunks and other debris, rose to cover bottom land and roads.  There are no official gauges at Osterdock and Millville to provide data on the crests there. The bridge at Osterdock remained opened as flood waters filled low-lying fields.

Numerous rural roads in the area were impassable. The Clayton Ridge Community School district sent students home Thursday morning while roads were still passable, and school remained closed on Friday.

Adding to the woes at Millville, a tremendous ice jam backed up flood waters at the railroad bridge near PromiseLand Winery east of Millville. Efforts to break up the ice jam were unsuccessful, and the floodwaters took out the bridge, halting rail traffic on the Canadian Pacific line. In 2008, the same railroad bridge had to be rebuilt due flood damage.

As water rose rapidly at Millville on Thursday, officials from the Iowa Department of Transportation closed Highway 52 to traffic. By Friday morning, the river had dropped significantly and DOT crews arrived to clear debris off the highway and shoulders  prior to reopening to traffic.  

Bootleggers restaurant on the banks of the Turkey River at Millville suffered significant damage when groundwater rose inside the building and in the parking lot. 

Mississippi River

The Mississippi River at Guttenberg will not feel the full effects of spring flooding until the snow melt in the watershed north of here makes it way downstream. Water levels began to climb last week due to flooding on tributaries. The river level was projected to be in the 13-14 foot range by midweek. Flood stage is 15 feet. Flooding risk will continue to rise in the coming weeks.

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