Independence homeowners prepared for flooding as Wapsipinicon river nears crest

Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 8:14 PM CDT
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INDEPENDENCE, Iowa (KCRG) - Independence saw flooded parks and streets Tuesday as the Wapsipinicon River continued its rise.

As of 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, the National Weather Service reports the Wapsi River is at 13.88 feet in Independence. That’s in the moderate flood stage. It’s expected to crest at around 14.3 feet early morning Wednesday.

Timothy Williams is a new resident in Independence and is experiencing his first flood.

”I’ve been out here for two months now. I didn’t know it was gonna be like this,” Williams said. “I was expecting just a river to be a little higher, I guess. But come up this morning, boom! I’m like, ‘oh, OK.’”

Charles Martin moved to Third Avenue NW in Independence in 1978. He’s seen his fair share of flooding since then, and he says he isn’t concerned about this recent round of water levels.

”I think that was the flood of ‘81 when I had two antique cars sitting back here and the water came up so high you could only see about an inch of the roof of each of them,” Martin said.

Martin knows exactly what to do, measuring flood levels with landmarks in his yard.

“When it gets up to my tree here then it’s time to check the basement to see if I need to turn on the sump pumps,” Martin said.

Buchanan County Emergency Management is keeping a close eye on the river as water creeps up, closing some low-level streets and observing flooding in some parking lots.

”In 1999, that was a record flooding here this area that were standing and was completely residential at that time and we were very heavily affected,” Rick Wulfekuhle, emergency management director for the county, said.

Since then city and county have worked hard to relocate homes in frequently flooded areas like what’s now Teachers Park.

“For us, since we’ve been doing this, we’ve had 172 successful home buyouts. I always equate it to that’s 172 families that would’ve been directly affected again,” Wulfekuhle said.

Because of efforts to mitigate the damage, even in moderate flood stages, most homes and families stay dry, and mainly parks, lower level streets and parking lots are impacted.

”These low-lying streets, and then some of our cabin areas. We’ve got some little cabin areas that are right on the river, some of those get affected already and the roads at the 10-foot level, so they are affected right now, some other access roads and that sort of thing,” Wulfekuhle said.

Wulfekuhle had a clear message as the Wapsi rises, recommending: ”Self preparedness. React now, don’t wait for the water to be at your wheels. React right now.”

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