The Ottumwa Courier

February 18, 2014

Threat of floods worrying some Ottumwans

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — While springtime can’t come fast enough for most in the area, several Ottumwans are worried that melting snow could create a lake where their homes and businesses sit.

Buddy Kelley, who lives on Samantha Street by Union Park on the city’s west side, said that approximately six months ago he discovered a culvert close to his home that was busted and filled in, and no water was being allowed to flow through it.

The culvert is a part of a levee system that helps transport storm water to the Des Moines River, which sits on the other side of the railroad tracks directly south of his home. The culvert, which goes underneath the railroad tracks, is filled with busted concrete and rocks, Kelley said, and the water that is supposed to be running through it instead gets backed up and washes into the neighborhood.

We’re not talking a little bit of water that comes into their yard, either. According to Savannah Archer, who lives with Kelley on Samantha Street, drivers have to be cautious when trying to go down Samantha Street because the water levels can sometimes reach upwards of 4 feet. Water even comes into their basement, she said, and there was standing water in their garage for close to a week at one point last summer.

They also get greeted by ducks in the summer. Archer said there were flocks of them that would swim around in their backyard whenever the water would get high enough.

“They are kind of cute, actually,” she said.

Kelley and Archer operate a vehicle repair business at their home on Samantha Street, also, so when the floods come it creates liability issues if they happen to be repairing a car while the water rises. They are urging that the problem be fixed as soon as possible so they don’t lose any business.

“We own a business here,” Archer said. “We can’t shut down whenever the water is high.”

When it starts to rain, Kelley said they have to start clearing out their basement and garage right away because the water accumulates so quickly. He said in a matter of just 20 minutes of rain they start to get standing water in their backyard, and it doesn’t take long for it to come all the way up to their home and garage.

Archer said that fixing the problem would simply give them piece of mind, because they wouldn’t have to keep a heavy eye on when the next rain is going to come.

“We could sleep at night and not have to worry about flooding,” Archer said.

Mindy England, who also lives on Samantha Street, worries if the wait becomes too long, the melted piles of snow will mix with the spring rains and create a flood that even Noah might be intimidated by.

“It’s scary getting all of this snow,” she said. “We’re worried it’s going to do something bad.”

Kelley said he and Archer have been in contact with city and county officials to try and repair the busted culvert, but so far conversations have been stalled.

They are not looking to point the finger and blame anyone for the problem, they said, they are only asking that it be fixed before more serious issues come about because of the flooding.

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh