Wapsipinicon River to Crest in Independence Thursday Evening

By Lee Hermiston, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE, Iowa - Residents and business owners in the Buchanan County city of Independence got a bit of good news Wednesday evening as they prepared for flooding.

The Wapsipinicon River, which bisects the community, is expected to crest at 15.6 feet Thursday evening. Earlier in the day on Wednesday, forecasts called for the river to crest at nearly 24 feet. The record high for the river at Independence was 22.35 feet, set in 1999.

The National Weather Service said the reason for the lower forecast is that water entered the Wapsipinicon River basin downstream from Independence.

Charlie McCardle, commission secretary for Buchanan County Emergency Management, said the storm that moved through Eastern Iowa Tuesday night into Wednesday morning dropped 4.5 to 6.1 inches of rain.

Dennis Prinsen lives in Manchester, but is a partner with Gosling & Company, which has an office on First Street in Independence. The office is several hundred feet from the river, but Prinsen and others were building a small sandbag wall around the business. It nearly flooded in 1999, Prinsen said.

"That time, it was right on our doorstep," Prinsen said.

For Dennis McGlaughlin, of Decorah, it's not if the two properties near the river his father owns will flood, but how much. McGlaughlin said his father is in a care center; so he and some friends are clearing out his home and the neighboring property.

"We're emptying the whole house," McGlaughlin said. "There was fish in the basement of the house last time."

McGlaughlin's friends, Michelle and Joel Dinger, of Independence, said they can recall flooding in 2011 that closed the bridges over the Wapsipinicon and shut down roads leading into the community. Highway 150 into Independence is already closed.

Michelle Dinger said when the roads close, Independence is essentially shut off until they reopen.

"You're not going anywhere," she said.

While the Dingers said they were only experiencing some minor flooding at their residence, they still were keeping an eye on the river levels. The couple lives on the other side of the river.

"We're going to have to be on the other side of the bridge or we're not going to get home," she said.

McCardle said no mandatory evacuations have been ordered, but residents are asked to keep an eye on the river. He also suggested that anyone new to the area since 1999 ask their neighbors about what to expect in terms of flooding in their neighborhood.

With no past experience to go on, McCardle said county officials will have to use their best judgment in responding to this historic flood.

"We have no guidelines to go on," he said.
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