Severe storm smacks West Liberty

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, July 2, 2014
It didn't rain in West Liberty, it poured. On Monday, June 30, winds clocked in between 30-40 mph as over five and a half inches of rain fell between 3 p.m. and midnight.

Several streets in and out of town were submerged under inches of water, while locations such as the swimming pool in Kimberly Park, the West Liberty High School football field and Wapsie Park saw the worst of the flooding.

"Public safety is our number one concern," said City Manager Lawrence McNaul the day after the storm. "People were trying to cross roadways and stalling."

Many vehicles were caught in the water, while basements in facilities all over town were filled due to the high amount of rain. Fallen tree branches and flooding caused damage to some homes.

However, McNaul reported that no major damage has been reported at the Simpson Memorial Home or West Liberty Foods.

The biggest issue the city faced was the lack of manpower and debris the next day, given the size of the storm it was difficult to assess and fix all damage quickly.

The flooding was the result of a series of giant storm systems that swept through the Midwest region Monday, terrorizing Iowa, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin.

Muscatine County received the brunt of system in the evening, along with West Liberty, towns such as Muscatine and Iowa City were severely affected. Flash flood and storm warnings were sent out before the rain in order to warn community members.

Water backed up in West Liberty's utility plants, but crews worked over night to drain them. They also attempted to alleviate pressure due to water buildup in storm drains.

Travel in and out of West Liberty was difficult and restricted the next day as community members dealt with high water levels.

The Wapsinonoc Creek, which travels under Highway 6 west of town, rose significantly and covered the bridge and the highway, as did many other creeks and streams in the county. Highway 6 leading east out of town was also submerged in water.

Highway 22/70 and Garfield Avenue heading to Interstate 80 managed to keep traffic flowing in and out of town. However, Highway 70 had to go down to one lane.

Prairie Street, North Walnut Street, Elder Avenue and many other streets in town were either closed or monitored the next day. Huge puddles engulfed large portions of asphalt.

Several news outlets not only reported deaths in Iowa, but throughout the Midwest. Fortunately none were reported in West Liberty.

The National Weather Service reported that at least six tornadoes were reported by spotters between 4:45 p.m. and 10 p.m. in the Midwest on Sunday, as well as many funnel clouds. Thick hail also fell in portions of Iowa.

The storm system cut across Iowa from west to south. Interstate and highway travel nearly slowed to a halt during the storm as cars hydroplaned and slid around.

West Liberty has seen its fair share of flooding, including last year. However, the storm on Monday has still left many shocked by its impact. A city cleanup has been planned, but no new information has been released.

The city will continue to assess damage in the days to come.
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