DES MOINES, Iowa – Three nights of heavy rainfall caused Iowa creeks and rivers to swell, forcing hundreds of residents from their homes and killing a 16-year-old girl when three cars were swept away by a torrent of water on a rural road.
In Ames, flooding contributed to a water main break that forced the city to shut off water to its roughly 55,000 residents and left Iowa State University’s basketball arena under 4 to 5 feet of water.
The flooding in central and eastern Iowa on Wednesday followed three straight nights of strong thunderstorms. After a brief respite for much of the state, more thunderstorms were possible Friday and Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.
Divers found the body of Jessica Nichole Webb, of Altoona, near the submerged cars in Mud Creek on Wednesday afternoon, more than 10 hours after she disappeared. Authorities said fast-moving water had hindered earlier search efforts.
Three cars had been swept off the road between Altoona and Mitchellville about 4 a.m. Rescuers found 10 of the 11 passengers clinging to trees and hanging onto logs.
Doug Phillips, a division chief with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, said the creek is usually only 3 feet deep and 10 feet wide but early Wednesday morning, “it looked like a river.”
Storms dumped 2 to 4 inches of rain on central and eastern Iowa overnight Wednesday, with 6 inches in some spots, the weather service said. A snowy winter and wet spring and summer “set the stage” for the flooding, but the recent storms were the big problem, meteorologist Jim Lee said.