© 2023 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

As Water Recedes, River Cities Tally Flood Damage

Kate Payne
IPR file
Muscatine is one of many Mississippi River towns to see recent flooding. The Upper Mississippi River has been designated among the most endangered rivers in the country, due to unauthorized levee construction.

The Mississippi River is continuing to dip below flood stage in Iowa after setting new marks for the longest flood on record in communities from Dubuque to Keokuk. As the water recedes, local leaders are setting to the task of adding up all the damage left behind.

One concern, besides washed out roads and flooded homes, is potential damage to underground infrastructure caused by shifting, waterlogged soil. The flood water was piled up for so long that Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch said it began to create problems from below ground.

"We know some of the hydrostatic pressure on one side of the barriers was literally pushing streets up so we had to put sandbags on streets so it didn't blow holes in them," Klipsch said, adding that the city will also check for sewer lines breaks.

Credit Courtesy USGS
Courtesy USGS
The Mississippi River as measured at Rock Island, Illinois is trending below flood stage for the first time since March.

A group of mayors from river cities, including Davenport, estimated in March that the flood damage would reach $2 billion. Now the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI)  believes the total number will likely be far beyond that amount.

"Taking into account the further losses in the valley from farming and manufacturing, we're definitely north of $2 billion in impacts," said MRCTI executive director, Colin Wellenkamp.

The Quad Cities reached a flood duration record of 96 days before the Mississippi fell below flood stage last week. In Burlington, the river has been above its banks for 104 days and counting. That surpasses the mark set in 1993, according to the National Weather Service. Downstream, the flood has been going on even longer — 171 days in Baton Rouge.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa