The Ottumwa Courier

Wapello County

June 5, 2013

Flash flood victims not alone

OTTUMWA — Following flash flooding that struck Ottumwa last week, several agencies want residents to know that help is available.

Public Works Director Larry Seals said over the last 10 years, the city has continued efforts to "alleviate future flooding."

"'Riverside flooding' is where the Des Moines River receives enough [rain] to exceed the capacity of the channel," Seals said. "Ottumwa is fortunate enough to be protected with the levee system."

The city has more than seven miles of levees, which help protect vulnerable areas of the city when Lake Red Rock is forced to release, he said.

But a few residents who attended Tuesday's City Council meeting said the "ongoing efforts" haven't done enough.

Connie Hazelwood said her home on West Second Street west of Union Park has been hit multiple times during flash floods.

"It's like a bathtub ... it just fills up," she said of the neighborhood.

Denny Whitson, who lives on Harrow's Branch along with four other homes, said flooding was never an issue until a levee was installed on West Second Street.

While Whitson said he would normally accept damages endured since he chose to live on a creek and in a flood plain, he said the levee has done more damage than good, not helping to stop floodwaters from storming both West Second Street and Harrow's Branch.

"What happens on Harrow's Branch is man-made," he said.

But heavy rainfall in a short period of time means sometimes there isn't much the city can do, said Councilman Bob Meyers.

"Areas on the west end of town and some on the north were reporting up to 7 inches of rain," Seals said of flash flooding last week. "We can handle 7 inches over 24 hours, but it's a lot different when that comes within a few hours and the ground is already saturated from a number of weeks of rain events."

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