Living along the Wapsi: One man’s reason for staying through persistent flooding

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DONAHUE, Iowa — When George Lucas was seven years old, he moved into a brown house in the Wapsipinicon River bottom; 36 years later he still calls that brown house home, and he has no plans to leave.

"I love it, but it takes a unique breed to live out here," said Lucas. "Everybody can't deal with the water like we can. You live out here, you have to deal with the water. It comes up, goes out the banks. I mean, if you can't handle it you just can't live out here," he said, standing in his yard, five or six feet away from the edge of the river.

Where Lucas lives, the Wapsi, as its commonly known, looks as though it's about to flow out of its banks. A small community of houses sit along a winding gravel road, heavy with water-filled potholes. Some houses sit on ground a few feet higher than the edge of the riverbank; while others, are flush with the surface of the rising water.

As of Saturday, September 24th at 6:30 p.m. The National Weather Service measures the Wapsi, near DeWitt, Iowa at 11.35 ft. Flood stage for the Wapsi is 11 ft. The river is expected to crest at 13.3 ft on Friday at 7 a.m.

"Two more feet, that'd be disastrous," said Lucas. He owns three boats and a truck, which he uses to get in and out of his home with the Wapsi's water levels rise.

Despite the concern for flooding, Lucas says its times like these that bring together his neighbors.

"When the water comes up, it's crazy how the neighbors actually bond together, and that's probably the tightest we ever get, 'cause we all look for each other for support," said Lucas.

Flood levels are predicted to go from "moderate" to "major" on Wednesday morning when the water tops 12.5 ft.