Iowa towns brace against flooding Mississippi River

National Weather Service issues disaster proclamations for Lee and Des Moines counties to help cities prepare for the worst.

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Posted: Friday, July 4, 2014 12:00 am

BURLINGTON, Iowa -- Communities in southeast Iowa braced Thursday for potential flooding from the swollen Mississippi River, with residents securing sandbags and other equipment.

The National Weather Service said the Mississippi River at Burlington was at 21.69 feet Thursday and rising. It was expected to crest Saturday at 24 feet.

State officials have issued disaster proclamations for both Des Moines and Lee counties. They're home to small communities like Burlington, Fort Madison, Keokuk and Wever.

Volunteers in Burlington spent Tuesday and Wednesday filling sandbags and preparing other protections, the Hawk Eye reported. The city's main street was closed Wednesday to allow BNSF Railway to raise two main tracks of its railroad bridge from 6 to 12 inches.

"Several pieces of equipment have been mobilized," said Amy McBeth, a company spokeswoman.

Lee County officials also declared a state of disaster Tuesday to assist Fort Madison with sandbag distribution and other equipment, the newspaper reported. The recent disaster proclamation from the state, which is meant to free up resources to combat possible damage, will help secure more sandbags and equipment.

Officials in Wever and Montrose have also responded by placing sandbags. Fort Madison officials postponed a Fourth of July fireworks event until further notice.

On the Mississippi River at Keokuk, water levels were at 19.48 feet Thursday and rising. It is expected to crest Sunday at 23 feet.

Heavy recent rains in the upper Midwest have caused the Mississippi and many of its tributaries to rise sharply. It's caused significant flooding in Iowa, Illinois and in Missouri north of the confluence with the Missouri River near St. Louis.

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