MUSCATINE — A flood watch is in effect for Muscatine, the city reported in a release Wednesday afternoon.
And that will probably change to a warning later this week, the release noted.
If the long-range forecast for the Mississippi is any indication, the crest of 20.2 feet on Tuesday is just the beginning of what could be a very wet spring along the riverfront. The Mississippi River was at 11.52 feet Wednesday, according to the release.
The City of Muscatine expects to close off access to Riverside Park by 5 p.m. Friday and close Mississippi Drive from Iowa to Mulberry Avenue Sunday afternoon. The Department of Public Works will also begin preparation of sand bags Friday.
Brian Stineman, Director of the Department of Public Works, said that the levees have been inspected and are ready for the rising waters.
“The forecast is for major flooding this spring,” Stineman said. “It wasn’t that long ago that we were pushing snow and spreading salt and sand. Now we are busy preparing and positioning assets for the forecasted flooding events.”
The flood stage at Muscatine is 16 feet with moderate flooding occurring at 18 feet and major flooding at 20 feet.
The reconstruction of Mississippi Drive accomplished one of the primary goals for the project and that was raising the roadbed so the street would remain open longer and closed for a shorter period of time. The street received its first test last October when the river crested at 20.65 feet.
Before the reconstruction, flood waters would seep out of the Mississippi Drive and Walnut Street storm inlet at 18.2 feet with the street covered by 19.5 feet. Observations from last October found that the seepage out of the storm inlet did not begin until 19.2 feet and the road was not covered until closer to 20 feet.
The first flood of 2019 comes on the heels of the second Spring Flood and Water Resources Outlook released by the National Weather Service, Davenport last week. That report indicates that there is a 25-to-50 percent chance of record flooding during the last three weeks of April. A record crest of 25.61 feet was recorded on July 9, 1993, in Muscatine.
The report states the potential for widespread flooding remains high this spring with soils nearly saturated and frozen, increased snow packs across northern Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and an active weather pattern that shows signs of bringing warmer temperatures, increased rainfall, and the potential for additional heavy snow across the northern parts of the Upper Mississippi River basin.
Earlier this week at the Muscatine County Supervisors meeting, Brian Wright, the county's Emergency Management Coordinator, reported there's a 95 percent chance of major flooding along both the Mississippi River and along the Cedar River.
"The ground is already saturated," Wright said. "We also have a lot of snow pack in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I just want people who live in flood prone areas to be aware and be prepared."
Wright said he and Eric Furnas, County Zoning and Environmental Director, will continue to monitor the situation.
River bottoms aren't the only areas that could face flooding. County Engineer Keith White said rural roadways could be threatened as well. "Right now, we have stretches of road that are under water," White told the board. "You've got snow on the roads and snow on both sides."
White said rural roads may need to be embargoed to prevent damage to them. "If people don't stay off of them and tear them up, there's absolutely nothing we can do," White said.