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Burlington flooding: HESCO barrier fails, downtown overrun with water

Des Moines Register logo Des Moines Register 6/2/2019 Tyler J Davis and Joseph Cress
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Another floodwall has failed in Iowa, inundating a county seat in the eastern part of the state.

Des Moines County Sheriff's Office confirmed that a downtown HESCO flood-prevention barrier failed Saturday afternoon. Water seeped onto Front Street, and city officials were working to dry the area near Burlington's port and auditorium. 

HESCO barriers are giant boxes made of sturdy metal netting covered by a tough fabric, often filled with sand or gravel, that act as temporary flood walls.

A county official said the city would release more information later Saturday. 

Parking lots and a handful of buildings were underwater early Saturday evening.  The damage appeared less widespread than recent flooding in downtown Davenport, when similar barriers broke.

Nearby businesses remained open. A few onlookers rode bikes through the shallow water, couples dined at a restaurant around the corner and an Amtrak train rolled by, passengers opening windows to see the water below.

Work was underway to minimize damage or keep properties dry; crews pumped water out of a bank and other buildings, while others appeared to pump water out of basements. 

Brian Pierce, a National Weather Service meteorologist in the Quad Cities, said a little more water may add to the situation since rain was forecast for Saturday.

“It’s not gonna be a widespread rain so the amounts should be fairly light,” Pierce said. 

The NWS had said that Burlington was under a flash flood emergency until 10 p.m. Saturday but cancelled that emergency shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday.

"The Flash Flood Emergency has been cancelled for Burlington Iowa. Major River flooding will continue, which now included a portion of downtown. The situation is no longer a flash situation/or fast changing," the weather service tweeted. 

The area has been "exceedingly wet" over the past few days — and months — pushing to the Mississippi River near the city past flood stage for the past 79 days and counting, Pierce said. 

A river-flood warning was also in effect and will continue to be until the water falls below flood stage. Pierce said that's not expected to happen until mid-June, if not later. 

"We went into a wet pattern in late March and it continued all through April and May," he said. 

Pierce said of the 10.3 inches of May rainfall in Burlington, nearly half — or 4.93 inches — fell between May 26 and May 29.

Rain should leave the area beginning late Saturday night and is expected to stay away until Monday. Pierce said next week's weather pattern near Burlington looks more active, though, with the likelihood of rain increasing Tuesday and getting stronger as the week progress.

a sign on the side of a fence: Water from the Mississippi River floods into downtown after a temporary barrier was breached, Saturday, June 1, 2019, in Burlington, Iowa. © Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen Water from the Mississippi River floods into downtown after a temporary barrier was breached, Saturday, June 1, 2019, in Burlington, Iowa.

    Follow the Register on Facebook and Twitter for more news. Tyler Davis can be contacted at 515-284-8378, tjdavis@dmreg.com or on Twitter @TDavisDMR.

    This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Burlington flooding: HESCO barrier fails, downtown overrun with water

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