In mid June, heavy rains caused several Iowa rivers to rise dangerously high. The locals tried to prepare, but the floods exceeded predictions.

We knew the river was rising because we were aware of changes in Charles City, which is about 30 miles north of us, says Ron Roelfs, O.D., who lives in Waverly, Iowa, on the Cedar River. We moved everything out of our basement. We expected this to only be about four inches higher than our largest flood, in 1999.

The Roelfs were evacuated on Monday, June 9. On the 11th, I was able to get back to my home by boatthe only way we could get thereand we found at least seven inches of water on the first floor of our home. Everything had sustained damage, Dr. Roelfs says.

In Waverly, floodwaters surpassed predictions by nearly a foot and a half. We had to tear the kitchen out and cut away drywall and the trim around the doors. The basement was entirely engulfedthe water even blew out the basement windows.

The Roelfs decided to cut their losses. We were able to secure a company that specializes in flood repair, and now were getting the house ready for sale as-is.

While cleaning out their house, the Roelfs were able to stay in a vacant condominium, which they have since purchased. Its above the floodplain. We were ready to downsize anyway; this just came a little early.

The flood affected nearly 350 homes and businesses in Waverly, and of these, nearly 40 buildings collapsed due to structural damage.

The Turkey River overflowed its banks along Main Street, flooding the small town of Elkader, Iowa.

Courtesy: The Clayton County Register, Shannon Durbin

About 60 miles east, the small town of Elkader was also bracing for floodwaters late Monday night. The Turkey River runs right along Main Street, through the heart of the South End business district.

Monday night, I walked downtown and saw people sandbagging along the river, says Bruce R. Landis, O.D., who practices on Main Street. His building had never flooded before and he didnt expect it to flood that night. I helped some people move their belongings to dry ground, and then I helped with the sandbagging.

Around 10:30 that night, the sandbags gave way. The Turkey River flowed over Main Street only two blocks from Dr. Landis office. So, he and two dozen volunteers began to empty it of equipment.

By midnight, we had almost everything out of the first floorexcept the two chairs and stands; they were too heavy, he says. By the time we were ready to clear the basement, water was pouring in and the sidewalk in front of the building was flooded.

The next morning, the water peaked. We had a full basement of water and six inches on the main floorafter they had predicted that it wouldnt even reach my building, says Dr. Landis. We were told, Dont drain the basement right away, because you might collapse a wall. Once we were sure the building was stable, we could pump the water out.

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It took the rest of the week to have the basement cleaned out and power-washed, and the first floor gutted for repair. We had the drywall cut out, the carpet ripped up, and were going from there.

Dr. Landis set up a practice at a temporary location in an unused retail space that was unaffected by the flood. We have all the equipment we need, and we were able to move the chairs and stands on Tuesday night, after the water receded a little. He estimates that it will be at least two months before he can reopen his practice.

The small town of 1,500 people was hit hard by the Turkey River flood. There are about 250 people affected, as far as housing goes, he says. There are going to be a lot of people who arent able to go back to their homes. Most businesses are on Main Street, and a lot took structural damage. I was lucky in the sense that I only had water damage.

Vol. No: 145:07Issue: 7/15/2008