As the Mississippi River kept rising Wednesday, area communities on both the east and west banks continued taking precautions against flooding.
In Burlington, where the river already was more than two feet above major flood stage at 20.2 feet and the National Weather Service is now predicting a rise to 21.3 feet by Sunday, city workers were busy erecting Hesco barriers just south of Memorial Auditorium.
The barriers weren't an extension of the flood wall, unlike north of the Port of Burlington, but rather a reservoir to contain water backing up from the river into an outlet for the Hawkeye sewer separation and discharging behind the flood wall.
"Those could stay for a while," said city of Burlington property manager Breydn Hill. The same for barriers erected at Front and Valley streets, he said.
With the city parking lot closed north of the Port building, Hill said parking should be restricted to the upper parking lot below the Great River Bridge near Big Muddy's. Hill said he expects the road and parking in front of Big Muddy's to the Burlington Boat Club and Bluff Harbor Marina to close soon as waters rise through the weekend.
Downriver, city crews in Fort Madison were busy building flood barriers adjacent to parts of Riverview Park, around the pavilion, and at the wastewater treatment plant off 20th Street.
Floodwaters aren't expected to get high enough to threaten the pavilion, which floods at 22 feet on the gauge in Burlington.
"I didn't want to take any chances," said Larry Driscoll, the Fort Madison public works director.
Riverview Park is closed to visitors. River water already was creeping up to the walls of Old Fort Madison, Driscoll said, and was pooling in low spots inside the fort. Staff of the fort moved artifacts to upper floors to protect them from flood water that will soon fill the grounds.
Additionally, workers were erecting a sand barrier around the wastewater treatment plant on 20th Street, where budget cuts on recent improvements included forgoing a $1.5 million flood wall. The sandbags are meant to prevent the river from back-filling into the treatment system.
Street flooding was being seen on Avenue I up to 11th Street, Driscoll said. Flooding could extend up to 13th Street. Homes in that neighborhood could see basement flooding based on current flood forecasts, he said.
In Keokuk, where a direct connection to Missouri was shut off when the Iowa Department of Transportation closed the U.S. 61/136 bridge over the Des Moines River due to flooding on the Missouri side of the river, city official were taking precautions below Lock and Dam 19.
Keokuk City Administrator Cole O'Donnell said riverfront areas, including campsites, shelters and restrooms have been closed and electrical service shut off. The George M. Verity Riverboat Museum is closed. Depending on flooding, he said, access to the Southside Boat Club also could be restricted.
Additional mooring lines have been tied to a barge acquired by the city from the former Rhythm City Casino at Davenport to keep it from floating off the rails it is resting on as the city tries to find a use for it.
BNSF Railway has shut down operations in its switch yard, O'Donnell said, due to installation of temporary flood barriers where tracks ordinarily cut through the flood wall that protects the Roquette plant and the city's wastewater treatment facility.
Other than those riverfront areas, O'Donnell said, Keokuk is mostly protected from being situated atop a bluff overlooking the river.
Elsewhere in Des Moines County, the Two Rivers Drainage District closed levee crossings on Tama Road, affecting the county conservation department's Tama Access. Conservation Director Chris Lee said drainage district officials informed him Wednesday the levee was being closed because people were using it as a boat ramp. Vehicles are not permitted on the levee.
Along the Skunk River, Lee said, rising water forced closure of the Skunk River Campground near Augusta as the river was rising out if its bank. Electricity as the site had been shut off, he said.
Gina Hardin, the Des Moines County emergency management director, said Augusta itself was not in danger of flooding, and the Augusta Bridge would remain open.
Hardin said Des Moines County residents affected by flooding, whether from river or rain, could be eligible for individual disaster relief following a proclamation from Gov. Kim Reynolds. Funding was available on a county-by-county basis, based on individual county applications.
Back upriver and on the Illinois side, officials in Oquawka, Illinois, village maintenance director Jeff Peterson said crews erected flood crossings at levee crossings, cutting off three homes and the Consolidated Grain and Barge elevator, which were surrounded by flood waters. Homeowners are able to access their elevated properties by rowboat, parking vehicles on the dry side of the levee.
The base of Main Street where it meets the river's edge also has been sandbagged. Additional sandbagging may be needed just north of Main Street, Peterson said.
Cindy Rhinehart, emergency management director for Henderson County, Illinois, said Gladstone was OK, but Gulfport residents had been put on alert.
"We're just watching the levee," she said. Seepage observed in the levee at present is normal, Rhinehart explained. "As long as the water is clear."
Dirty water would indicate soil movement, she said.
The biggest immediate impact of flooding for the people people on the Illinois side of the river is the closure of Carman Road. A break in a levee on private property near Ellison Creek, Rhinehart said, meant the blacktop highway is expected to go underwater. Closure, she said, was expected either Wednesday night or today. Traffic will have to divert to the east to reach towns and properties south of U.S. 34.
Rhinehart's counterpart in Hancock County, Illinois, Jack Curtman, said residents of riverside communities Niota and Pontoosuc were keeping an eye on river levels, and some were relocating belongings to put them out of harm's way. No major flood-fighting efforts were yet being contemplated, though.
"If it stops at the 21.2, 21.3," Curtman said, citing the Burlington flood level, "it shouldn't be too bad."
In Dallas City, Illinois, which straddles the Henderson and Hancock county line, Mayor Kevin Six said sandbagging had not yet begun, but rising water along East First Street will inundate the road, cutting off access to residents. BNSF railway is re-opening an at-grade crossing, Six said, to allow access to the area.
Sandbagging and evacuation is generally left up to individual property owners, said Six, who lives on a high spot along East First Street but cannot now get into his driveway.
He said the river would have to rise to 23 or 24 feet to force residents to leave.