What Happens When the Mississippi Floods in Muscatine?

127  Pearl City Station 24.34

Muscatine has seen its fair share of floods over the years. Because our city is nestled along the banks of the Mississippi River, we are bound to see occasional high water. Many of you may remember the record floods of 1993 and 2008. Floods like those don’t happen often, but when they do, we must have a plan in place to keep our community safe and secure.

We are reaching the end of the normal flood season for the Mississippi at this point in the year, but we still wanted to give our readers a brief overview of how the City responds to floods.

The City of Muscatine has an efficient plan in place to monitor river levels and then respond at the necessary flood stages. The following departments are directly involved in flood control: Public Works – Engineering and Street Maintenance Divisions, Water Pollution Control Plant and Sewer Maintenance Division, Parks and Recreation, Police Department, Fire Department, and Finance Department.

035 Clam man statue on riverfront 24.34

Here’s a brief overview of what happens once the 16′ Flood Level is met. These guidelines were created prior to the reconstruction and raising of Mississippi Drive but are guidelines still adhered to by the City of Muscatine.

  1. 16′ is the Official Flood Level – It is monitored on the Muscatine gauge, which is located at the Municipal Power Plant, River Mile 453.0. Once the flood waters reach this level, City staff will monitor the weather and projections for river stages along with Mad Creek’s potential flows.
  2. 17′ Gauge –  Wait and watch. Water will encroach upon the walk area at Pearl City Station at 17.5′. Toe drain pumps will get ready to run when necessary.
  3. 18′ to 19′ Gauge – Once a prediction of 18′ is determined, 2,000 sandbags are created, and preparations are made to phase all parking in the riverfront parking lot with detours are set up. At 18.2′ water starts to back out of the storm inlet at Mississippi Drive and Walnut Street. By 19.2′, two lanes of traffic are covered. At 19.5′ water is across all four lanes of Mississippi Drive at Walnut and all of the riverfront parking lot is underwater. At 19.64′ water is to the center line of Mississippi Drive at Mulberry. At 19.83′ water is on top of the deck at Pearl City Station.
  4. At this point, local weather forecasts must be observed closely in order to predict Mad Creek flows. Necessary notifications must be made to the Railroad and businesses utilizing the railroad.
  5. Procedures are followed from 20′ and up that include closing structures and the flood gates. Randy Howell, the Street Maintenance Supervisor, makes the call for when flood gates go down. During the next phases, levees are patrolled to watch for boils. Sandbags are added as necessary. Correct emergency maintenance procedures are followed in conjunction with the State of Iowa.

This is just a glimpse into what happens when flood levels reach a certain level and how the City of Muscatine responds to flood situations at the riverfront. The City has an extensive plan in place to respond to any flood situation that may arise.

Residents and visitors to Muscatine are reminded that if they encounter water over the roadway … turn around and don’t drown. Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters.

People underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded. A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. It is NEVER safe to drive or walk into flood waters.

The recommended flood procedures, as established in 2010, can be found HERE.

The current flood prediction hydrograph from the National Weather Service can be found HERE.

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