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Floodwaters Hit City Of Independence, Historic Mill

The flooding Wapsipinicon River rose to 16.86 feet in Independence on Wednesday. Floodwater streamed into some businesses and parking lots and marrooned some cars in the northeast Iowa City.

The river level is nearly two feet above major flood stage there. The impacts are still markedly less than the city's historic flood of 1999, when the river crested at 22.35 feet. Still, the city's fire department spent much of Tuesday night responding to flood-related calls, including wading into floodwaters to retrieve vehicles. 

In the heart of the city's downtown, the historic Wapsipinicon Mill sits on a dam that juts out into the  Wapsipinicon River. As of Wednesday afternoon, the water was knee-deep in the nearly 150-year-old building's basement, according to Buchanan County Historical Society President Leanne Harrison.

“It was built in 1867 to 1870 and so it has seen its share of water going over the dam. Of which it is today also,” Harrison said.

The mill and its museum, which is owned by the historical society, has been modified over the years to accomodate some flooding, including the addition of a semi-permeable basement floor. Still, Harrison said she's keeping an eye out for mold, mildew and potential damage to the building's foundation.

“Our cleanup...we’ve been through it before and so we know exactly what we have to do. And have to make sure all the foundations and stuff are intact,” Harrison said.

Harrison hopes the building will be drying out by the end of the week.

As of Wednesday afternoon, data from the National Weather Service shows water levels in Independence were right around their crest, and seemed to be on their way down.

Independence City Manager Al Roder said he's hopeful the waters stabilize and recede. 

"We really get into a critical point at 17 [feet], so we're close, but it appears to be cresting," Roder said.

But with more rain expected, forecasts may change. Elsewhere in the state, the National Weather Service expects floodwaters will continue rising into the weekend.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter