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Burlington prepares for upcoming flood with Hesco barriers to help incomplete flood wall

BURLINGTON, Iowa – Water levels are on the rise and looking to reach major flood stage this Sunday.

Around town they call it the 500 year-flood, but Bryan Atwater - General Manager of The Drake Restaurant – hopes to never see it reach that stage.

Five of the biggest floods in Burlington have occurred in the last 11 years and the river is climbing once again.

“And that just creates more uses when you have the water pushing the ice up,” says Atwater.

Burlington business owners along the river, like Atwater, are getting ready for flooding and hoping it’s not the same as a decade ago.

“2008 was it the big one?” Atwater questions. “The 100-year flood, I believe it go up to 25 and a half feet and we were fishing off the front steps here.”

Since then, the city has built a permanent flood wall that will eventually hold back water levels close to 30 feet, but since it’s still a few years out from being complete the city is moving in sand-filled Hesco barriers to hold back the waters.

“The current projections by the National Weather Service are at 19.7 feet and 18 feet is major flood stage,” describes Director of Public Works, Nick MacGregor.

The barriers are a tactic the city has used repeatedly that is tried and true.

“Last fall we protected the 21 foot, so we are doing the same process as we are doing this year,” MacGregor says.

The National Weather Service predicts the Mississippi will leaves its banks early Friday morning and keep rising to under 20 feet next week.

“It takes the river to crest at 22 feet, we start getting water in the basement,” Atwater explains.

Although floods can wash away business downtown, Atwater hopes if history repeats itself he’ll only see a rise.

“The flood brings more people to see, people want to come down and they want to look at it,” Atwater says. “It just helps bring more people in.”

Public Works crews will be building the barriers into Thursday.

The National Weather Service says it’s only a 10 to 15% chance of the river reaching historic flood stage, but the city says they’re preparing for the worst.



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