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OTTUMWA — Rain is back in the Ottumwa forecast, but there’s another bit of prediction that should bring everyone a smile. River levels should start dropping soon.

The Des Moines River reached flood stage on May 24 and has not dropped below 11.5 feet since. The river never hit the level forecasters feared, but the crest was still enough to inundate properties along Rabbit Run and Rock Bluff Road.

When the river floods in Ottumwa, it often stays high for an extended time. That’s because releases from the Saylorville Lake and Red Rock Lake reservoirs continue long after the rain departs. The river has been at about 14.5 feet for about a week, just below the moderate flood level in Ottumwa.

That’s about to change. Forecasters say the river will slowly drop to 14 feet between now and Sunday, then take a nose dive. The river could be at 12.6 feet as early as 8 a.m. Monday. A similar drop at Eddyville could put the river below flood stage early next week.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to begin stepping down releases from Red Rock on Sunday and, conditions permitting, continuing to lower those releases on June 19 and June 23. The lake level on Sunday, the first day of the planned cuts, should be around 761 feet.

The past week of dry weather has been good news for Iowa farmers. Spring planting remains well behind prior years, but 87 percent of the corn in southeast Iowa is now in the ground. Soybeans still trail, with only 53 percent planted. Statewide, planting rates are running about two weeks behind the average.

There is rain in the forecast, but it’s not the same, relentless storms the state saw in May. The area should have a couple days to dry out after a few storms Tuesday night and showers on Wednesday. The next significant chance of rain arrives Friday night.

Those storms are not expected to be severe.

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