Major flooding is anticipated in Spillville, where the Turkey River is expected to crest at 15 feet, one inch, by mid-day Thursday.
Flood stage is 9 feet and major flooding occurs when the river reaches 13 feet; the highest crest in history was 21 feet in 2016. A flood warning for the county was posted by Winneshiek Emergency Management Wednesday and the public was advised to be cautious and take the warning seriously.
“Be careful as the water is expected to rise very quickly once it begins,” the Winneshiek Emergency Management Facebook post said.
Spillville officials have experience dealing with flooding, but longtime Mayor Mike Klimesh said he doesn’t recall battling an early spring flood.
“Every flood has in been the summertime. It’s a little different with everything covered in snow. We’re about as prepared as we can be. We started making plans Monday night and worked on it yesterday through the day,” he said Wednesday morning.
Sandbags were installed around the historic Inwood Ballroom twice last year. Sandbags used late summer were left in place to protect air vents, Klimesh said. Spillville has been using the county’s sandbagging machine to make more bags in preparation for this week’s flooding and additional empty bags can be filled if needed.
Snow is not usually plowed around the Inwood in winter, but this week the snow was removed so that critical infrastructure in the Inwood can be elevated if needed. Afterward, Klimesh said the back door area of the Inwood would be sandbagged.
Based on previous flood events, the mayor said the Inwood floor would be covered if the river crests at 15 feet. He said during summer floods the floor also gets covered with silt and sand, but with the ground still currently frozen, he said that might not be the case with a March flood.
When the river reaches as high as 15 feet, the effectiveness of sandbags becomes questionable.
“We don’t have the resources to bag the entire area,” he said.
The mayor was watching the forecast closely Wednesday as rain was predicted throughout the day and more on Thursday. Klimesh said Spillville had volunteers in place to deal with the flooding and if additional volunteers, equipment or materials are needed that would be coordinated through Winneshiek County Emergency Management
“All we can do is sit and wait and see what Mother Nature gives us,” Klimesh said.
On Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service in La Crosse was predicting moderate flooding along the Upper Iowa River.