Monday might have been a holiday for some, but it sure wasn’t a day off for folks in the communities of Zearing and McCallsburg.
Residents of the two northern Story County towns were working hard to clean up from the heavy downpours that occurred over a short amount of time on Sunday and caused major flooding.
In Zearing, city maintenance worker Jeff Johnston was busy Monday working with others to clear tree limbs and other debris, like corn stalks, out of the Minerva Creek, where they were hung up, not allowing water to flow through freely.
Jim Chance, mayor of Zearing, said high winds Monday morning caused more downed trees and tree limbs that needed to be cleared throughout the community as well. Chance also said that residents, many of whom were dealing with water in their own basements, banded together to clean up one of the churches that had water running through it.
In McCallsburg, city councilwoman Robin Pruisner said the damages in town were sustained mostly by residents who had basement flooding following the heavy storm Sunday. One house in town, she said, had water all the way to the rafters in the basement. She was aware of two homes with at least three feet of water and several that had a few inches of water.
Pruisner said that on Sunday, the auxiliary pump at the sewer pond in the southwest corner of town was having some problems, but the city was able to get that fixed promptly. So water coming up through sewer drains in homes, she said, was the result of a complete overload to the lines due to the heavy rainfall.
While there is no specific time data taken for the northern Story County area, Robert DeRoy, data program manager with the National Weather Service, said at least 3.66 inches of precipitation fell there on Sunday afternoon. Locals say it fell in a very short amount of time - less than an hour.
As the rain fell, Zearing Fire Chief Jerry Johnson said about six of the town’s firefighters reported to the Minerva Creek bridge south of Main Street to try to pump water across the road to the east to keep water levels down. “We use a pump truck and suck (water) into the pump and blow it out the other end,” Johnson said, adding that all of this is to “make an attempt” to keep flooding down.
But Johnson said Sunday’s rain event just “came so fast. Seems like we’re having an awful lot of 500-year floods, and I guess this one is probably one of the worst ones we’ve had.”
Johnson said Zearing Fire has been involved with all flooding events in the past 25 years, and he can’t remember an event as significant as Sunday’s storm. “Water actually came over the top of the bridge this time, and nobody ever recalled it coming over the top before,” he said.
Johnson said there was also water over the E18 blacktop by the schoolhouse, and he said water was over the road in two other places farther west. The town’s south side apartments also had to be evacuated due to flooding. First responders in the community, he said, were on hand at the community building to help those who were displaced from their dwellings.
The beauty of devastating storms is the way this type of catastrophe brings people together to help each other. Pruisner said that in McCallsburg on Sunday, residents came together to help each other in a community effort. “We went to check on elderly residents and we had pumps on hand for people who had water in their basements.”
Mayor Chance saw that same spirit. “They all banded together on the cleanup,” he said. The mayor said the city’s next chore will be assessing the actual damages and trying to get financial assistance to help with the losses.
By Sunday evening, most of the flood waters in the two communities had receded, leaving residents in these areas hoping that no more huge rainfalls will come again any time soon.
Maintenance worker Johnston said he doesn’t think regular rain showers will hurt the town at this point, but another big downpour, he said, would not be good.
DeRoy said that this week, currently saturated soil and rivers which are at or above flood stage will be exacerbated by expected additional rainfall. He said there is potential for flooding and flash flooding, even in areas not accustomed to it.
As for the summer outlook, DeRoy said, “Iowa has equal chances for it to be either wet or dry. It could go either way.” He said there’s no specific signal that says Iowa will have a wet summer.
(Journal Intern Ariel Curtis contributed to this story.)