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Iowa flooding causes millions in damage

An aerial view of the Lake Delhi dam in eastern Iowa taken yesterday. The dam failed on Saturday, causing major flooding. An aerial view of the Lake Delhi dam in eastern Iowa taken yesterday. The dam failed on Saturday, causing major flooding. (Mike Burley/ Dubuque Telegraph Herald via Associated Press)
Associated Press / July 26, 2010

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MONTICELLO, Iowa — Flooding from the Maquoketa River after the Lake Delhi dam failed has damaged dozens of homes and businesses, causing millions of dollars in damage in Monticello, officials said yesterday.

The Lake Delhi dam in eastern Iowa failed Saturday as rising flood water from the Maquoketa River ate a 30-foot-wide hole in it. Areas below the dam, including in Hopkinton and Monticello, were evacuated.

Officials estimated that 8,000 people were affected by the floods, but no injuries were reported.

“It is simply unbelievable. This is unprecedented. We’ve had floods before and we’ve always been able to contain the situation and minimize the damage, but with Mother Nature’s fury . . . there was no way to do anything about it,’’ said Mike Willey, president of the board of directors at the Lake Delhi Recreation Association. “There was simply too much water.’’

The river crested upstream of the dam at Manchester early Saturday afternoon at 24.53 feet — more than 10 feet above flood stage and well above its 2004 record of 21.66 feet — before it began to slowly recede.

About 50 homes and 20 businesses had major flood damage and the city’s sewer plant had been flooded and shut down about 7 p.m. Saturday, said public works director Dana Edwards.

Most of the city’s 3,700 residents could flush their toilets, but the waste was pouring into the river. Still, environmental damage shouldn’t be great because the waste was being diluted by the flood water, Edwards said.

The city’s drinking water system was working, “but we are asking people to use as little water as possible,’’ Edwards said.

Damage to private property will probably be in the millions of dollars, Edwards said. The cost of repairing the sewer plant will not be known until workers can get inside to assess the damage.

Pumps from the Army Corps of Engineers and the city were being put into the city’s main sewer lines to try to keep water out of residents’ basements.

The hydroelectric dam on the Maquoketa River that created Lake Delhi in the 1920s is no longer used for power but maintains the lake for recreational purposes.

Severe storms hit parts of the southern Ohio Valley to the Mid-Atlantic coast yesterday. High winds were reported from West Virginia, southern Pennsylvania, and Maryland throughout the afternoon.

Massive power outages hit the nation’s capital and surrounding areas last night after powerful storms barreled through and downed power lines and countless trees, including one that fell on a minivan and killed a woman.

The remnants of Tropical Depression Bonnie produced more unsettled weather along the central Gulf Coast yesterday. Heavy rain and thunderstorms were reported across parts of southern Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle.

Extreme heat and humidity persisted in the East and central Plains, with daytime highs running well above average and heat indexes reaching past 110 degrees.

In Chicago, more than 7 inches of rain fell Saturday, overwhelming the sewer system and waterways.

Water covered portions of several Chicago interstates and the commuter train tracks that run along them, leading crews to divert traffic and call in bus shuttles. Portions of Interstate 290 west of downtown were closed for several hours.

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