Cleaning up after the storm
KALONA—The last time there was water surrounding Katie Ford’s home on A Avenue was two weeks after she moved in back in 2010. The water had gotten up to the front step of her home.
Today Ford has water in her basement and a broken pipe, which is leaking. Instead of going to work Tuesday she is spending her time mopping and cleaning out things from her basement.
“I have a fan going in my basement and a dehumidifier,” Ford said. “This afternoon my dad is coming down from Dubuque to install a shut-off valve on the busted pipe. I know I’ll have to mop the basement with disinfectant before my dad gets here this afternoon.”
Ford said she began making her way home from her job in Coralville around 4 p.m. Monday afternoon. When she got to Kalona she noticed Highway 22 was flooded and immediately got a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.
“I couldn’t get to my house,” Ford said. “I was driving in on Highway 22 and got to town and couldn’t take a left [where she normally does to get to her house], and that was the worst feeling in the world. They [sheriff deputies] were redirecting traffic and I stopped and told them where I lived, but they wouldn’t let me go down there, and then I saw the water and I panicked.”
Kalona City Administrator Ryan Schlabaugh said Kalona has had flooding in the past but nothing as fast as this.
“Everything just came at once,” Schlabaugh said. “We got hit really hard—from the rain Sunday afternoon to last night Kalona had 9 1/2 of rain. Our storm system drains were working yesterday, but they couldn’t handle that much [rain] all at one time.”
A Avenue, B Avenue, C Avenue a little bit of D Avenue, E. Avenue, which is Highway 22, H Avenue, and J Avenue were all flooded Monday evening, Schlabaugh said.
“The DOT closed Highway 22 yesterday,” Schlabaugh said. “On J Avenue water went over the road three times in some places. People who have worked here [for the city] have never seen that happen before.”
As Ford drove around town she noticed others having a hard time getting through the flooded area.
“The water was so high and cars were bottoming out trying to drive through it,” Ford said. “There were kids out in the water and it was coming up to their knees. I have a Ford F150 and couldn’t imagine cars trying to drive through the flooded areas.”
She eventually made her way home and checked the basement. The floor was covered with water. She said things were fine until the second storm came through Monday evening because that is when the water pipe burst and then her power went out.
“So here I am emptying things from my Rubbermaid bins and using them to take the water out,” she said. “I would say I took at least 75 bins of water out last night.”
Ford’s home is the only one in her neighborhood with a basement. She said her neighbors had a couple of inches of water coming into their garages because they were at ground level, but she hadn’t heard if they had items damaged in their homes from the flash flooding.
“Realistically I guess things could be a lot worse,” she said. “If my home was closer to the ground, the damage could have been much worse.”
Schlabaugh said the city is trying to do all it can to assist residents affected by the flash flooding Monday.
“We’re going to have two large dumpsters in the west parking lot of the Kalona City Park until probably next Monday,” he said. “People can put any flood debris and flood-damaged items in there.”
The city began preparing for flooding Sunday, Schlabaugh said.
“We had sandbags ready to go, but there was a point in time where we just couldn’t keep up,” he said.
Power also went out during the storm Monday evening, which left people without working sump pumps, Schlabaugh said. Alliant Energy told Schlabaugh the issue wasn’t a tree down over a power line but something wrong at a substation in town.
“Today there’s just a lot of cleanup,” Schlabaugh said. “There are still some residents without power. Neighbors, thankfully, have been checking on each other and sharing a generator for a couple of hours to get power to their fridge to help keep food cool. We have a lot of good individuals in Kalona willing to help their neighbors.”
The city also contacted its engineer to see if there’s anything the city can do better when flash flooding like this happens, Schlabaugh said.
“We have a meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. today,” he said. “It just so happens the school district will also have their engineers in town at the same time looking at their property. We’re going to talk to them and try to work with the school district because the flooding is around their property, too.”
In Wellman, trained spotter for the National Weather Service (NWS) reported 6.25 inches of rain had fallen in the past 24 hours there Tuesday morning.
Chris Huston, utilities clerk at Wellman City Hall, said people have called city hall to let them know water was in their basement, but nothing major has been reported.
“Kalona got it a lot worse than us,” Huston said. “They had a lot more flooding than we did.”
Neighboring Johnson County has been declared a disaster area due to damage caused by flooding, according to an E-mail from the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency of Johnson County.