Floodwaters Take Out Water Plant, Close Roads in Ames

AMES - Officials shut off the City of Ames' water supply at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday after saturated soil shifted under flooded Squaw Creek, causing a buried 24-inch main to fail. The break drained a city water tower, dropping pressure in the distribution system and raising the possibility the system's water could become contaminated.

Officials warned anyone who still had access to water to boil it before consuming it. They said repairs could take up to 24 hours, and it might be a week before the water was safe to drink.

Several hundred Ames residents were evacuated from their homes after 3 to 5 inches of rain pushed Squaw Creek and Skunk River over their banks, Fire Chief Clint Petersen said. In some spots, water was up to car windshields.

The floor at Hilton Coliseum, Iowa State's basketball arena, was covered with up to 5 feet of water, school spokesman John McCarroll said. It was too soon to know how much damage had been done, he said.

Jack Trice football stadium was still dry, surrounded by sandbags football players had stacked as a precaution.

But the parking lot between the two stadiums, where tailgaters party before games, was flooded.

"I hope they get it cleared out by football season," student Sam Stonehocker said.

In all, eight campus buildings had flood damage, McCarroll said.

The Iowa Department of Transportation closed Interstate 35 just south of Ames and both lanes of U.S. Highway 30 in the area were closed.

Elsewhere in Ames, Howe's Welding and Metal Fab had several feet of water inside it, even though the owners had been sandbagging all night. Piper Wall, whose husband owns the business, said it was difficult to assess the damage while the water remained, but it appeared worse than in 1993, when much of the area was underwater.

"It will be when all this comes out and all the mud that remains and the machining tools and electric stuff that's not high enough," Wall said. "In 1993, it was $150,000 and this year it's higher."

Downriver from Ames, the town of Colfax was nearly cut off by the rising Skunk River. Roads were covered by water, and people used boats to help neighbors move to higher ground.

Colfax Mayor David Mast said he expected more than 200 homes would flood, and some were already inundated with about 4 feet of water. City officials had asked at least 300 residents on the west side of town to move to higher ground, Mast said.

After Heather Kern was asked to leave at 12:30 a.m., she rushed to move possessions out of the home she shared with her husband, two children and three other relatives. When sirens sounds a few hours later, the family had to evacuate.

Kern's basement was flooded, and water was inching into the first floor with waste-high water in the backyard.

"I feel blessed that we have our lives," Kern said. "We don't know where we're going to live or where we're going to stay, but we have our lives."

Colfax flooded in 1993, when the Skunk River reached a record of over 21.5 feet, more than 4 feet over flood stage. The river on Wednesday was 22.5 and still rising.

Video from Inside Hilton Coliseum:


Howe's Welding and Metal Fab had several feet of water inside it, even though the owners had been sandbagging all night. Piper Wall, whose husband owns the business, said it was difficult to assess the damage while the water remained, but it appeared worse than in 1993, when much of the area was underwater.

"It will be when all this comes out and all the mud that remains and the machining tools and electric stuff that's not high enough," Wall said. "In 1993, it was $150,000 and this year it's higher."

A few blocks away, the Meadowland Mobile Home Park had flooded and some residents were evacuating.

Dean Black, 58, stayed behind, drinking coffee on his deck while water lapped around the deck's floorboards. The water had to rise another 9 inches before it would get inside his home, he said, indicating he was taking it in stride.

"What else are you going to do?" he said. "I can't stop it."

Tom Kroeschell, with Iowa State communications, said ISU football players were sandbagging the Jacobson Building at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday morning as the lake of water that is the Hilton Coliseum parking lot drew steadily closer to the Jacobson Athletic Building, which is headquarters for most of the Cyclone athletics department.

The University of Iowa has offered to help Iowa State University address flooding issues on campus.

UI spokesman Tom Moore says the UI is prepared to send equipment, offer advice, and devote manpower to aid ISU if the institution "finds it helpful."

No Eastern Iowa counties are reporting any road closures due to flooding.

Map of Ames street flooding:

View City of Ames Street Closings 8-11-10 in a larger map

-KCCI-TV contributed to this report

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