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Barrier fails, downtown Burlington overrun with water

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See video from on the ground after a HESCO barrier failed June 1, 2019, in downtown Burlington, Iowa.
Des Moines Register

DES MOINES, Iowa – Another flood wall has failed in Iowa, inundating a county seat in the eastern part of the state.

The Burlington County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that a downtown flood-prevention barrier failed Saturday afternoon. Water seeped onto Front Street, and city officials were working to dry the area near Burlington’s port and auditorium. Authorities said a four- to six-block area of downtown is being affected.

Weather service gauges indicated the Mississippi River at Burlington crested Saturday afternoon at 24.45 feet – half an inch over the projected crest.

The flood wall was made of HESCO barriers, giant boxes made of sturdy metal netting covered by a tough fabric, often filled with sand or gravel.

A county official said the city would release more information later Saturday. 

Parking lots and a handful of buildings were underwater early Saturday evening. The damage appeared less widespread than recent flooding in Davenport, about 75 miles upstream on the Mississippi River, where similar barriers broke, sending floodwater rushing over several blocks of downtown Davenport.

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Nearby businesses remained open. A few onlookers rode bikes through the shallow water, couples dined at a restaurant around the corner and an Amtrak train rolled by, passengers opening windows to see the water below.

Work was underway to minimize damage and keep properties dry; crews pumped water out of a bank and other buildings, while others appeared to pump water out of basements. 

Brian Pierce, a National Weather Service meteorologist in the Quad Cities, said a little more water may add to the situation since rain was forecast for Saturday.

“It’s not gonna be a widespread rain so the amounts should be fairly light,” Pierce said. 

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The NWS had said that Burlington was under a flash flood emergency until 10 p.m. Saturday but cancelled that emergency shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday.

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The area has been “exceedingly wet” over the past months, pushing the Mississippi River near the city past flood stage for the past 79 days and counting, Pierce said. 

A flood warning was also in effect and will continue to be until the water falls below flood stage. Pierce said that’s not expected to happen until mid-June, if not later. 

“We went into a wet pattern in late March and it continued all through April and May,” he said. 

Pierce said of the 10.3 inches of May rainfall in Burlington, nearly half – or 4.93 inches –fell between May 26 and May 29.

Rain should leave the area beginning late Saturday night and is expected to stay away until Monday. Pierce said next week’s weather pattern near Burlington looks more active, though, with the likelihood of rain increasing Tuesday and getting stronger as the week progress.

Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Tyler Davis on Twitter: @TDavisDMR

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