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Spring freshet

By Staff | Feb 23, 2016

Jeff Zogg, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service out of Des Moines, takes pictures of an ice jam that caused flooding in Fort Dodge Monday. Zogg said the NWS visited Fort Dodge because the organization likes to inspect ice jams when they are reported.

Some Fort Dodge residents found their homes filling with water Monday as ice jams along the Des Moines River caused flooding.

Webster County remained under a flood warning from the National Weather Service Monday until early Tuesday morning.

The rising waters also threatened farms immediately north of town.

Arla Grady, who farms with her husband, Ron, keep six horses on their farm at the intersection of Madison Avenue and 170th Street.

Grady said they were prepared to move the horses as waters rose, but the flow stopped at the edge of their barn.

Chunks of ice and river water flow Monday over Madison Avenue, just south of 170th Street, north of Fort Dodge, as a the result of an ice jam on the Des Moines River. An emergency alert came over weather radios and other electronic devices at 12:29 a.m. warning of flash flooding due to the ice build-up.

“We were lucky this time,” she said. “It didn’t get into the barn.”

She said the farm lost about 200 bales of hay when the river flooded in 2008.

“But when the ice up north breaks, it’s going to happen all over,”?Grady said.

Scott Forbes, Webster County emergency management coordinator, described the area near Madison Avenue and Riverdale Drive, the northern part of Fort Dodge, as the most affected area.

That’s where Forbes and two representatives from the National Weather Service in Des Moines were Monday as they inspected the ice jam and the flooding it was causing.

Looking north from 170th Street, a large portion of Madison Avenue is inundated by the Des Moines River as ice jams Monday morning caused water to back up.

Jeff Zogg, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service, estimated the ice to be around 18 inches thick.

He said the ice was jamming up in the Des Moines River near Madison Avenue because the river twists and turns through the area.

Because the water was flowing steadily, he wasn’t immediately worried about damage.

“Ideally a little bit will flow out and give it time to go down,” he said about the water levels. “Hopefully (the ice) will start to lose a little bit over time, otherwise it’ll dam up.”

What concerned Zogg the most was the possibility of the ice breaking up too fast.

Floodwaters of the Des Moines River come up to the foundation of the barn on the farm of Ron and Arla Grady at the intersection of 170th Street and Madison Avenue, north of Fort Dodge, then started to recede on Monday. None of the Gradys' six horses needed to be moved.

“That would cause a surge of water,” he said. “Basically it’s like a flash flood on the Des Moines River.”

Forbes said the water had even flooded Madison Avenue overnight Sunday into Monday. The road was closed to traffic Monday.

Even though most of the water had receded by Monday afternoon, large chunks of ice remained all over the road.

Zogg said while the flood warning is set to expire this morning at 6:30, it can be reissued if officials feel it’s appropriate.

In addition, some homes along Riverdale Drive were being flooded by the waters.

Despite that, Forbes said he’d only spoken with one person who needed shelter for the night.

Sara Messerly and her husband Curt Messerly own two houses in the 2100 block of Riverdale Drive. She said the homes have been in her family for three generations.

“The river leaves a murky mess, but we usually just hose it off,” she said.

Curt Messerly said the flooding started around 9:30 a.m., but by early afternoon it had started receding.

Though the water had flooded the basement in one home and the back deck in another home that’s used as a cabin, that wasn’t Sara Messerly’s main concern.

“What I worry about is the ice chunks,” she said, mostly because they can cause more damage than the water can. Flowing ice can damage the physical structure of the homes.

“That worries me more than the water,” Messerly said.

She added that six years ago, in 2010, was the last time flooding was this bad in the area.

Her neighbor, Dave Scherff, said he had 5 feet of water in his basement.

Scherff said he heard the ice cracking Sunday afternoon. Flooding started around 9:30 a.m. Monday.

“What we really need is two to three really good sunny days to melt it down,” he said.

Still, Scherff said the flood waters could be helpful.

“I hope it washes away that fence,” he said, pointing to an old fence on his property.

Messerly said it doesn’t help worrying about the flooding.

“Some years it’s worse than others,” she said. “You’ve got to keep a sense of humor about it.”

Larry Kershner, Farm News news editor, contributed to this story.

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