Iowa communities along rivers monitor warm-up

DES MOINES (AP) — Recent rain coupled with an expected warm-up have some Iowa river communities warily watching out for flooding that has already affected the state’s eastern region.

The National Weather Service said temperatures across Iowa will warm up in the next few days. The melting snow could be troublesome for a swath of northern Iowa where runoff is likely because the ground is frozen.

A recent storm system Sunday into Monday produced heavy powder for the region. The Mason City area got 10 to 13 inches of snow, while Fort Dodge had at least 10 inches.

With nearly 10 inches of snow still packed onto the frozen ground, little water is being absorbed into the soil in communities along the Iowa, Winnebago and Cedar rivers.

A high in northern Iowa around 40 degrees and below freezing temperatures at night means any melting snow “should be gradual enough that it shouldn’t be serious,” meteorologist Brad Small said. “Any flooding that would occur would be minor.”

Temperatures are expected to reach up to 60 degrees in southern Iowa, but the region will benefit because the warm-up will thaw out the ground.

Meteorologist David Sheets said rain that fell on frozen ground in eastern Iowa over the weekend led to rising water levels in nearby rivers and several reports of flooded basements.

“It was standing water everywhere,” he said. “The ground was not able to absorb it because the ground is still frozen. It couldn’t take in the moisture.”

Brent Trout, city administrator for Mason City, said the Winnebago River has some capacity to handle the possible runoff.

“We have the items in place in order to be prepared,” he said.

In northwest Cedar Rapids, water backed up by an ice jam along the nearby Cedar River flooded some residential streets Tuesday. City officials said they’re pumping out water and placing sandbags around some homes. The area was affected by major flooding in 2008.

Several flood warnings are in effect in eastern Iowa for the next few days, and some communities already have flooding. Kalona near the English River has major flooding, with water at 18 feet as of Tuesday. That’s above its flood stage of 14 feet.

Residences along the Wapsipinicon River near DeWitt also are experiencing major flooding. The water was at 13.1 feet as of Tuesday, above its flood stage of 11 feet.

Sheets said the Mississippi River is flooding along several points south of the Quad Cities region, but it was still minor.