Crews Working to Keep Highway 30 Open in Tama County

By Dave Franzman, Reporter


By Aaron Hepker

TAMA COUNTY, Iowa- Highway 30 west of Tama remained open to at least one lane of traffic in each direction on Tuesday. But it wasn't easy.

Rising water from the Iowa River threatened to close the vital east-west highway like so many other roads in central and eastern Iowa. But both Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) crews and volunteer firefighters from Tama and Toledo did just enough to keep the road open and keep traffic moving.

Highway workers actually followed a playbook from the flood of 2008. When water threatened the cover the road then, crews dumped gravel on the north side of the highway to create a sort of "mini levee." Volunteer firefighters then hooked up pumper trucks and siphoned water from the median and sprayed it to the other side of the road. One fire truck even shot a stream of water over passing traffic.

Mark Lloyd, a DOT highway maintenance supervisor for Tama County, said it was a close call at first, but workers quickly got ahead of the water.

"At this point right now (late morning), we're holding our own. It seems like the levels are going down a bit. The concern this morning was going over the road. Now we're lucky enough to hold it," Lloyd said.

Some drivers were a little reluctant to run the water gauntlet at first. But the alternative to shooting streams of water over the tops of vehicles was to do nothing and close the highway. A closed Highway 30 would have meant a lengthy detour.

Tama Assistant Fire Chief Stuart Eisentrager said that wasn't an option.

"If it closes, ambulances don't have any way to the hospitals unles you go way up and around," he said.

Water was a problem elsewhere in Tama County. Highway 63 had to close with at least a quarter mile wide stream of water over the roadway. Downstream in Chelsea, high water closed roads in and out of town and threatened dozens of homes.

Crews said the water from the Iowa River came up faster this time compared to 2008. But the same plan to keep traffic moving on Highway 30 appeared to work again.

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