You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

Jefferson Fire Department member Gary Schaeffer directs traffic through floodwaters at the intersection of East Dakota and Main Streets Wednesday in Jefferson, South Dakota. Interstate 29 traffic was being diverted through the town after the interstate north of Jefferson was shut down due to a traffic accident involving hazardous materials.

Rain, melting snow cause widespread Wednesday flooding across Siouxland

SIOUX CITY -- Wasn't it just last week that we were complaining about all that snow piled up as we weathered freezing conditions and wished it would warm up a little?

We weren't wishing for this.

Warming temperatures causing excessive snowmelt and combining with record-breaking rainfall and still-frozen ground swamped the region Wednesday, flooding basements across Siouxland and making travel difficult in many areas.

By late afternoon, Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew had emailed out a list of 16 spots in the county in which roads were covered because of flooding.

"There's a big swath of water that's got to go somewhere," Drew said.

In Dakota County, U.S. Highway 77 from its intersection with Nebraska Highway 35 at Dakota City was closed to Walthill. Dozens of county roads were closed or nearly impassable.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Woodbury County highway workers try to channel the water away from the eroded Glen Ellen Road outside Sioux City on Wednesday.

"I'm getting reports from deputies and the road department and county roads are not good, not good at all," said Deanna Hagberg, Dakota County Emergency Management Agency director.

Cedar County, Nebraska, officials ran out of barricades to mark closed roads and advised motorists to stay off rural roads, many of which were flooded or damaged.

After a frigid February, the frozen soil is of no help to absorb all the rain and melting snow, said Kerry Hanko, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.

"In this case, we have frozen ground, which acts almost like concrete. (The water) can't absorb, so it ponds or just flows toward the rivers," Hanko said.

And boy, did it ever flow on Wednesday, when Sioux City received 1.55 inches of rain, a new record for March 13, surpassing the old record of 1.20 inches in 1973.

Social media pages were filled with photos and video of water flowing over roads and streets and filling rivers to the top of their banks.

Flood warnings remain in effect along most rivers in the region, Hanko said, and moderate to major flooding can be expected along the Big Sioux River in Hawarden and Akron, Iowa, along the Floyd and Rock rivers in northwest Iowa and the James River in southeast South Dakota.

Residents in Randolph, Nebraska, living in low-lying areas were asked to evacuate their homes. Hornick, Iowa, residents were urged to remove valuable property from basements in anticipation of basement flooding throughout town.

In Sioux City, Perry Creek was forecast to crest Wednesday night at 25.5 feet, just below minor flood stage. City officials did not expect water to leave the banks, but residents near the creek could expect to see water in their back yards, a normal occurrence when the creek reaches that height.

City utility workers spent the day responding to calls throughout the city from homeowners with water in their basements and chipping frozen debris out of storm sewer inlets.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

Chunks of ice and debris float down Perry Creek toward downtown Sioux City Wednesday. The creek was expected to crest late Wednesday at 25.5 feet, just below minor flood stage,

Perry Creek is forecasted to crest at approximately 8:00 p.m. tonight, Wednesday March 13, 2019, at 25.5 feet.  This level is just below minor flood stage. Residents near the creek are likely to see water in their back yards and the city encouraged residents to watch for water in their basements.

"I think everyone just understands there isn't much of a place for the water to go," city utilities manager Mark Simms said.

Simms said there were several reports of sewers backing up into basements and manhole covers popping off into the street.

Conditions may not improve much Thursday, Hanko said.

Another half inch of rain was expected overnight into Thursday morning before changing over snow by mid morning. Hanko said most of Siouxland should see up to an inch of snow, but that's not the main concern. Winds will increase throughout the day and gust up to 50-60 mph before the snow stops falling in the late afternoon or early evening.

Relief is on the way, however. After Friday, when highs are forecast in the 30s, the weekend forecast calls for sunny to partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the 40s.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

From left, Corey Westra and Mike Skaggs, co-directors of the NAIA Volleyball Championship, pose for a photo during the quarterfinals NAIA DII Women's Basketball Championship action at Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa on Saturday.

top story
Flooded basement? There's not much you can do beyond pumping out the wetness

SIOUX CITY -- Foulk Brothers Plumbing and Heating's Wes Rasmussen estimated the Sioux City business had fielded more than 20 calls, Wednesday, from customers with flooded basement that was due to a combination of rain showers and quickly melting snow.

So, what can a homeowner do to keep their basements from flooding? Beyond investing in a sump pump, not much.

"For the most part, the ground is still frozen," Rasmussen explained. "That means the runoff is entering homes horizontally."

He recommended that homeowners remain vigilant when it comes to wet spots in the basement since it easily leads to mold.

That's also a concern for Tyler Brock, Siouxland District Health Department deputy director.

"Some people have a greater adversity to mold," he said. 

However, Brock said short-term flooding will likely not become a health concern.

"Whatever runoff people see in their basement will be new water in the form of rain or snow," he said. "It isn't water that has been collecting over a period of time." 

top story
Clay County, Iowa school will end grades 7-12 instruction

EVERLY, Iowa -- After a major decision that will alter the future of a small Northwest Iowa school district, Clay Central Everly will graduate its final high school class in May.

The Clay Central School Board members in a Monday meeting accepted the resignations of several district employees and voted to discontinue providing instruction to students in grades 7-12 in 2019-20. CCE Superintendent Dennis McClain wrote about the changes in an online message on the district website Tuesday.

That move will mean closure of the secondary school in Everly, although classes in the CCE elementary school in Royal will continue next year.

"It is just a sad thing to see happen, because I graduated from there years ago. It was a great school," Kim Gonzalez, a 1990 CCE graduate, said Wednesday.

A key decision remains on where current CCE students in grades 6-11 will attend school next year, including whether the school board will select a nearby district to arrange to send junior high and high school students, or to allow parents and students to select schooling destinations on their own.

"It is up in the air where they are going," said Gonzalez, who took a brief break while working at Barb's Corner, a landmark restaurant located north of Everly on U.S. Highway 18.

Gonzalez said the drop of CCE enrollment was pretty clear to see. She was in the last graduating class that had the notable mascot name of the Cattlefeeders, which changed for the 1990-91 year in which a younger sister graduated.

McClain said the decision was driven by an enrollment drop, as many students have sought the open enrollment process to transfer to other schools.

"The general mood is a sadness for the end of an era and uncertainty about the future. Individual families are seeking to make the best decisions for their family," McClain said in an email to the Journal.

"The patrons want to continue to have a CCE presence and that will continue with our elementary school."

Thirty-four open enrollment applications were taken out for K-12 students before the March 1 deadline. Iowa Department of Education reports show the CCE enrollment for the current year is 204 students, which is considerably down from the enrollments of 306 in 2013-14 and 353 in 2008-09.

"At our board meeting (Monday) night, our board made the difficult decision to tuition out grades 7-12 for the 2019-2020 school year. This will mean a great deal of change and, we hope, opportunity for our students. The decision was made based upon financial data, enrollment projections, open enrollment, and survey results," McClain wrote in Tuesday's message.

"We are asking that parents of 6-11 grade student(s) contact (a school secretary) at the high school to let us know which school they will attend next year. We will then be able to coordinate with each of the districts in continuing to serve our students."

District leaders have been open with community member about the difficulties of funding CCE and maintaining programs. Discussion of the results of a community survey, which had 230 respondents, was held at the Monday school board meeting.

The survey asked community members would follow any upcoming school board choice of sharing partner or select their own, and 74 percent responded they would pursue their interests, independent of the board's decision. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said students in their homes would return to CC-E for the 2019-20 school year.

Additionally, the survey reported 35 percent of respondents favored sharing extracurricular activities with the school district in Spencer, which is the largest in Clay County, while 30 percent cited Okoboji, 24 percent selected Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn and 11 percent chose Sioux Central.

In a December newsletter, CCE leaders described a committee in late 2018 touring schools in neighboring districts and the quest to share key information in a time with "lots of false rumors floating around."

"As a district, we are continuing to investigate different scenarios for reducing expenditures in the future. We are investigating all options and are being methodical in examining these options in order to make the best long-term decision for constituents and district," the newsletter said.

Everly is a town of 603 residents, while Royal has 446.