The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

March 15, 2013

Rising river levels need not worry Ottumwans

River at 4.28 feet; flood stage is 11 feet

OTTUMWA — Recent heavy rainfall and warmer temperatures have some communities eyeing their rivers, anxious that a flood is on the horizon.

Thankfully, Ottumwa is nowhere near flood stage. As of Thursday, the Des Moines River level was 4.28 feet, far below the flood stage of 11 feet.

“As a matter of fact, the river has gone down some here since the weekend,” said Ottumwa Water Works and Hydro general manager Mike Heffernan.

Brad Sillbach, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines, said due to eastern Iowa’s higher rain levels, eastern Iowa has seen more flooding and higher river levels than the rest of the state, where heavy snowfall has been the main concern.

“Eastern Iowa has seen a higher moisture content,” Sillbach said. “The snow is melting, but there’s more moisture in rain than there is in snow.”

The last time Ottumwa began to worry about rising waters was in 2010, when the city experienced some minor flooding.

“But that was mainly with stormwater back-up because the river was high and stormwaters couldn’t discharge into the river without being pumped,” he said. “We haven’t had anything real serious since 2010.”

Most of the snow between Ottumwa and Lake Red Rock is gone, Heffernan said, so even if it continues to rain, there would just be a temporary surge in the river level, though nothing approaching flood stage.

“Eastern Iowa has had some problems, but primarily from a lot of snow melt and rain all at the same time coming from northern Illinois and northern Iowa,” Heffernan said. “But we haven’t had near the snow here. Plus Illinois and eastern Iowa get more moisture than we had. Their rivers were not anywhere near as low as ours have been running.”

Sillbach said most precipitation in the forecast now will run off into the rivers as opposed to soaking into the ground.

“We’re starting to see warmer temperatures,” he said. “Rivers with ice are starting to break up, they’re getting ice pans and snowstorms will start turning into rain and the ground will start thawing. As the ground thaws, we’ll get more soaking.”

Heffernan said he couldn’t remember — at least in recent history — a time when the Des Moines River was as low as it was this winter. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Red Rock, the Des Moines River’s lowest point this winter was 0.07 feet on Jan. 24 at Ottumwa’s gauging station, though that may not be entirely accurate because when the river is that low, at times the gauges do not accurately read the river level, said Perry Thostenson with the USACE.

“Lake Red Rock has been releasing 300 cubic feet per second,” Heffernan said. “At that level, in a river as wide as ours, it looks pretty paltry.”

A continuing drought this summer is cause for concern.

“Even though we got a surge in the water now, Saylorville [Lake] is still pretty low,” he said.

When river levels begin to drop, so does the water quality.

“The water quality deteriorates, and it’s harder for us to treat,” Heffernan said.

The Dr Pepper/Snapple bottling operation near the Ottumwa Airport uses reverse osmosis units, so the harder the water, the harder it is for Water Works to treat.

“It makes it difficult for people with those units to keep on top of them,” Heffernan said. “But I’ve noticed that since we got rain, the water has come up and even though it looks pretty dirty, it’s softer water, so the water quality has improved that quickly just from the rain we had.”

As long as Lake Red Rock has sufficient water, Ottumwa will get enough to provide services to its businesses and residents.

Text Only
Local News
  • Ups and downs OTTUMWA — Iowa's governor and his lieutenant seemed thrilled with part of the employment news Friday. Gov. Terry Branstad's Twitter page said: "BREAKING: Iowa's employment reaches all-time high of 1,615,200." Iowa Workforce Development confirms the n

    April 18, 2014

  • 15-minutes.png A change at Evans

    OTTUMWA — You can get kids to memorize facts. But teaching them to think can take more time. Educational leaders told the Ottumwa school board that the school year that begins 2014 will shift Evans Middle School students from 45-minute periods to 60-

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Those who came before OTTUMWA — There is so much information on researching genealogy, beginners may not know where to start. But experts and knowledgeable amateurs will offer help as they gather for a free Family History Fair to share which websites are worthwhile and wh

    April 18, 2014

  • 0419 OTT Tree planting color photo -T -M -L Young Ottumwans show their green thumbs OTTUMWA — Several of Ottumwa’s cemeteries and parks were recipients of new trees this week as Ottumwa High School students and Eagle Scouts dedicated their time to planting dozens of trees around the city. Students from the OHS JROTC class were at Ot

    April 18, 2014 4 Photos

  • 0419 OTT Prayer Walk 2 bw photo -L -M -T On a journey OTTUMWA — The seven blocks through the center of Ottumwa took more than an hour and a half to walk as 25 people prayed and read Scripture to reflect on the events of Good Friday. Led by the Ottumwa Area Fellowship of Pastors, the walk began at First

    April 18, 2014 3 Photos

  • 0419 OTT drought map -L -T -M Drought weakens grip on Iowa OTTUMWA — Last weekend saw the first significant rains in quite some time for the Ottumwa area. How long? The last day with at least a half-inch of rain was back on Nov. 20. It was a welcome rain, arriving after the ground had thawed. That allowed at

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Eugene Clark STOCKPORT — Eugene Morris Clark, 90, of Stockport, died at 5:30 p.m. April 17, 2014, at Good Samaritan Health and Rehabilitation Center, Ottumwa. Graveside services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in Spencer Cemetery northeast of Stockport; Pastor Richard

    April 18, 2014

  • Civil War Round Table visited by baseball historian OTTUMWA — The Civil War Round Table was treated to a special guest Thursday night and a presentation about how baseball during the Civil War era helped shape Iowa as we know it. John Liepa, former history and political science professor at Des Moines

    April 18, 2014

  • Three-day forecast Today ... Sunny, with a high near 76. Breezy, with a southeast wind 10 to 18 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Tonight ... Partly cloudy, with a low around 53. Breezy, with a south wind 9 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph. Sunday ... Partly su

    April 18, 2014

  • 0418 OTT Tree City U.S.A. logo Ottumwa awarded as Tree City U.S.A. again OTTUMWA — Having big, beautiful trees throughout a community can help spruce up a city and make it more attractive to visitors. Ottumwa has shown a dedication to making the community more green and inviting, and the efforts have been recognized by th

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook
E-edition