HEARTLAND FLOOD: Fish are crossing the street in Percival Iowa

PERCIVAL, Iowa (WOWT) -- Friday’s heavy rain added to the wet and turbulent miseries of Percival, Iowa.

The town’s frustration level rivals its water level as the residents say they’ve had enough of the water coming and going since the initial flood. They want answers.

They say water levels are the worst they've seen in weeks. Most people have fled town waiting for the flooding to recede – again.

They say that for a while things were looking good. They were returning to their homes to start the cleanup. But that all changed over the past few weeks.

The county's Emergency Response Team says work being done by a railway company is making things more difficult. The BNSF is closing off breaches along the railway, blocking the floodwater’s escape route.

The county says the rail company has made some effort to get the water moving but it's not enough.

Fremont County Supervisor Dustin Sheldon said, “They put the flumes in, which doesn't allow as much water to go, which in turn started pushing more water back through the town of Percival. We been in contact with them trying to get them to alleviate the problem but haven't had any success doing that."

In a statement, BNSF said, "Based on our surveys we believe the water surface elevation in Percival is not affected by the railroad."

The company points to other factors including levee breaches.

To give you a sense of just how high and how fast this water has risen, if you stand along the main drag into town long enough you'll eventually see fish crossing the road.

Charlie Bohlan owns an old gas station that’s been out of service for years.

“I've got things in there up on blocks, what's left in there, to keep dry,” he said. “But I guess it's just persistence - coming back. Because this is where I've grown up."

Bohlan said the waters have been rising and receding since the initial flood. “It’s frustrating. This is the sixth time it's in the station."

We spoke with one woman Friday who was on her way out to the grocery store. She said she was not sure if she’d be able to get to her home when she returned.

Debbie Vanderbeek said, “This is the worst it's been since March. They can't seem to get this flooding to stop. They think it's the railroad and all these houses down here are going to be ruined."

Charlie said he's seen enough flooding for one lifetime.

“My wife and I are going to move this time. We'll keep the building because this is my shop - a touch of home - to stay in the community."

BNSF says they have added dozens of culverts in Percival that are providing more drainage than prior to the flooding.

BNSF statement:


Flood waters continue to escape the Missouri River through significant levee breaches north of Percival, Iowa, and west of the I-29. BNSF Railway agrees with an Iowa DOT plan designed to limit water from reaching communities east of I 29, including Percival. State officials requested BNSF support and the railroad is prepared to assist with the state’s proactive plan.

As the region recovers from flooding and we restore our railroad, we work to minimize our impact on the communities of Iowa. Based on our surveys, we believe the water surface elevation in Percival is not affected by the railroad which runs north-south in that area, but instead by a combination of factors, including the levee breaches, the east-west roadways, and obstructions downstream that prevent the water from draining further south. BNSF has added 30 culverts north of 200th Street in Percival, which are providing significantly more drainage than prior to the flooding.

Andy Williams
Regional Public Affairs Director