Levee Failure Leads to Flooding and Evacuations in Downtown Davenport, Iowa

Flooding in Iowa
Joseph Cress / Iowa City Press-Citizen

Officials began evacuating parts of downtown Davenport, Iowa yesterday afternoon due to a flash flood emergency. Folks were urged to seek higher ground after a Mississippi River flood barrier broke, sending water gushing into the city.

KWQC reported that it was a temporary barrier that had failed.

Rising River Floodwaters

The mighty Mississippi has been steadily rising as the peak of storm season continues to drop rain on the river. On Tuesday morning, the Des Moines Register even reported predictions that the river would reach near-record crests by Wednesday.

By that afternoon, the protections that had been put in place to safeguard downtown Davenport from the river gave way.

Dozens of vehicles were overtaken by the sudden floodwaters, as were the lower floors of several buildings. The waters reached depths of up to six feet in at least one part of the city.

Overall, about four blocks – mostly businesses and some apartments – were hit by the sudden deluge. Several businesses were abruptly forced to close.

Rescue Operations and NWS Warning

City workers rushed to reinforce the temporary levee with sandbags, and rescue crews took to the streets in boats to assist with evacuations of the affected areas.

The National Weather Service also issued a flash flood emergency warning in response to the breach, though it was lifted later yesterday evening. The NWS did note that the water levels had not receded, but rather they just weren’t continuing to rise. People are still being urged to avoid the area if possible.

Flood Threat Remains

“Flooding will likely worsen tomorrow so please remain vigilant, follow directions from local officials and law enforcement, and be prepared to evacuate if necessary,” tweeted Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds on Tuesday night.

With several forecasts predicting near-record river crests for Wednesday, the city remains at the mercy of the Mississippi.

“There’s nothing we can really do at this point … until the river recedes,” Scott County Emergency Management Director David Donovan told The Weather Channel.

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Written by Annie Wilson