LEHIGH, Iowa — Flooding has been causing problems for much of the Midwest, and the Iowa town of Lehigh is getting hit with some of the worst flooding residents say they have seen in more than 60 years.
“This is the highest I’ve ever seen it. I guess in ’64 it was high, but I don’t know if it was higher than this. I mean you’ll have to talk to someone a little older than me,” said Mark Craig Johnson.
Johnson knows the risk of living near the water. His family has owned their home just off of the Des Moines River in Lehigh since 1970.
“If you live on the river, it’s something you have to anticipate, and if you’re going to live here you have to accept what the river does and adjust to it,” said Johnson.
Channel 13 interviewed Johnson during flooding in June of 2014, when he took our camera crew to his house by canoe. But he says that this time around, it is much worse.
“This year, it blew in my basement window and we lost the battle. It probably came up four feet in 45 minutes,” said Johnson.
This time it is not summer rain that is wreaking havoc, but rather ice jams clogging up the river, according to Mayor Pro Tem Doug Dellachiesa.
“Right down this area where our lagoon is at, there is quite a bit of ice developing, and as far as we know it goes all the way to the Stratford area and all that is helping keeping this backed up,” said Dellachiesa.
The town piled up about 1,500 sandbags by their riverside tavern Friday morning in preparation, but the river had other plans.
“It didn’t do any good. It went right over top of it this morning,” said Dellachiesa.
It left some residents no choice but to evacuate overnight.
“The house that right’s here, their dogs woke them up because they got in water and they were cold and started barking and that woke them up, and they just got out … You can see their cars are still there. That happened to several people down around here,” said Dellachiesa.
Webster County`s Emergency Management says there is still a lot of ice north of Lehigh, near Humboldt. That means the water could still get even higher in the days to come.
That is why citizens of all ages are helping out sandbagging Saturday afternoon around Lehigh`s municipal building that works as their fire station, city hall, and their water treatment plant.
“We’re just kind of contemplating what might happen. I hope it doesn’t happen,” said Dellachiesa.
Dellachiesa also urges people to stay away from the river. He said they already had to warn a few kids to not get too close to the dangerously rising waters.