OTTUMWA — It finally happened. At about 1:45 a.m. Wednesday morning, the Des Moines River finally fell below flood stage for the first time since May 24.
The 47-day flood isn’t the longest Ottumwa has experienced, nor was it the highest. In late May the river hit 16.28 feet, well above the 11.5-foot flood stage. But the crest was lower than the 18.5-foot level that was initially forecast. It was a relief to many, though properties on Rabbit Run and Cliffland Road still saw flooding.
What came after the crest was familiar to Ottumwans. The river fell slowly, kept high by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ handling of Red Rock Lake. Releases from that reservoir had brought the lake below levels that used any of its flood capacity, but the corps said it had to maintain releases at rates that kept Ottumwa above flood stage until the lake began falling at a rate of one foot per day.
The very wet weather in the spring and early summer months that led to the flooding has been replaced with summer heat and humidity. Only 0.3 inches of rain has fallen on Ottumwa in the first 10 days of July. That’s off a normal pace. Ottumwa usually sees a bit more than three inches of rain in July.
The river should continue to fall as the pattern of hot temperatures and little rain continues. Forecasts Wednesday suggested the river may be below the nine-foot action stage by early next week.