The Ottumwa Courier

Ottumwa

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
Ottumwa
  • City Council approves sale of properties OTTUMWA — On Tuesday the Ottumwa City Council met for the last regularly scheduled meeting of April. Included in the agenda for the evening were several dispositions of city owned property. Structures and land located at 519 W. Fourth St., 723 E. Mar

    April 15, 2014

  • Where to play OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Community School District wants to discuss moving to another athletic conference. Superintendent Davis Eidahl revealed that the district has been contacted by a smaller sports league, which has extended an invitation to join the

    April 15, 2014

  • 0415 Right side up monster truck pic Nice driver --- mean machine OTTUMWA --- Drivers sat at one end of their vehicles during the "pit party," meeting fans and signing autographs before the motorsport and monster truck exhibition at Bridge View Center this weekend. Monster truck driver Orville Hill let kids --- and

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0415 OTT Composting ethical pic Recycling in a garden OTTUMWA --- Parents will tell you: They hate to see kids waste food. A gardner named Scott Koepke feels the same way. “First, let’s get our food to people who are going to eat it,” he said. “It hurts me to see kids in the schools throw away an entire

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0412 OTT Pothole color photo -T -M [Duplicate] A bumper crop of potholes OTTUMWA — The nice weather has been putting the bad roads on display. Officials say good: It gives us a chance to fix them. “Every city is going through the same thing,” said Larry Seals, Ottumwa Public Works director. “It has been an unusual winter

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Home in a tent OTTUMWA -- As people live without shelter, they become desperate finding a place to sleep. The situation impacts more than just the community's homeless. "There is nowhere to put people who are homeless," said Mary Margaret Butler. "Nowhere." Ottumwa

    April 11, 2014

  • 0412 OTT Martha Speaks color photo -T -M Ottumwa children visited by cartoon star OTTUMWA — Iowa Public Television is celebrating its 45-year anniversary this year by helping communities like Ottumwa educate young children before they get into a school setting. One of the programs they are using to help reach out to children is by

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • United Way expanding on Corporate Community Garden OTTUMWA — The United Way of Wapello County created its Corporate Community Garden last year as a way to donate locally grown food to community members in need, and after a successful first year, it's hoping to expand the garden’s impact in its second

    April 11, 2014

  • City Council to discuss several property sales OTTUMWA -- The Ottumwa City Council will meet Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall for its second and final regularly scheduled meeting of April. Included on the agenda for the evening, among various other items, are several public hearings on t

    April 11, 2014

  • Volunteers wanted for playground construction OTTUMWA — Wildwood Park in Ottumwa is going to be the recipient of some rather significant playground upgrades in the near future, but in order for the construction of the new equipment to be free for taxpayers, there has to be enough volunteer power

    April 10, 2014

Obituaries
Record
Facebook
AP National