Flood barrier at Burlington fails, flooding downtown

June 1, 2019

BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) — A temporary flood barrier at Burlington has failed along the swollen Mississippi River has failed, sending floodwaters rushing into the city’s downtown.

The National Weather Service says Burlington officials have confirmed that a large, sand-filled barrier failed Saturday afternoon, forcing some businesses in the downtown area to evacuate.

The weather service has issued a flash flood warning for the area until 10 p.m. Saturday, saying a four- to six-block area of downtown Burlington is being affected.

Authorities urged people in the area to seek higher ground and avoid driving or walking through flooded areas.

The Hawk Eye reported that the barrier had held back the overflowing Mississippi River for 80 days before it failed, inundating the city’s auditorium, the Port of Burlington and Front Street. Floodwaters also reached the parking lots of the Post Office and the Drake Restaurant.

The spot where the barriers failed was one that had been difficult to work in, assistant public works manager Nick MacGregor said. Saturation of the sand in the barriers also was believed to have been a factor in the breach.

Weather service gauges indicated the Mississippi River at Burlington crested Saturday afternoon at 24.45 feet (7.45 meters) — half an inch over the projected crest. The only higher crests came during historic flooding in 2008 and 1993.

The barrier breach is reminiscent of a similar breach April 30 at Davenport, about 75 miles (120.7 kilometers) upstream on the Mississippi River. That breach also sent floodwater rushing over several blocks of downtown Davenport.

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