00:57 - Source: HLN
Flood threat in the Midwest

Story highlights

Flooding left two people dead last week in Wisconsin

About 10,000 people evacuated in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

CNN —  

Swollen rivers and creeks have prompted evacuations and curfews in parts of Iowa and Wisconsin as flooding threatens thousands of people with loss of property and possibly life.

The city most immediately threatened is Cedar Rapids in eastern Iowa, where more than 10,000 people have been evacuated from homes and businesses.

The city is preparing for the Cedar River to crest at 23 feet at 7 a.m. Tuesday and for it to hold that height for six hours, Greg Buelow, the public safety coordinator, told CNN.

Buelow said city employees and volunteers have tried to mitigate damage from flooding, but he warned that people were still under significant risk if they did not abandon the area.

“The temporary flood protection systems have held to this point; however, there are no guarantees with temporary flood protection measures of earthen berms, Hesco flood barriers and levees,” Buelow said. “We are still strongly encouraging people to evacuate.”

More than 400 soldiers of the Iowa National Guard are working at evacuation points and helping people leave neighborhoods, authorities said. Interstate 80 was still open, but the state department of transportation said it was being closely monitored for flooding.

Local officials ordered a curfew in the evacuation zone between 8 p.m and 7 a.m and residents seen in the area will be stopped by law enforcement, authorities said. Police Chief Wayne Jerman said the curfew is expected to be in effect every evening until the flooding subsides.

Flooding already claimed two lives last week in western Wisconsin’s Vernon County. One man was killed Thursday after a mudslide destroyed his home, according to CNN affiliate WEAU-TV.

Also Thursday, a second man died while trying to drive through floodwaters near his home, the station reported.

Cedar Rapids residents were advised to take personal belongings, medications, and important documents like identification before leaving their homes. Mayor Ron Corbett said evacuated people should expect the downtown area to be closed off until October 1 following the evacuation.

Volunteers come out

Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz thanked volunteers who answered the city’s call for help Friday and Saturday to put together sandbags to hold back the Cedar River’s raging waters.

“This is a situation no entity can handle alone. Our volunteers have been absolutely phenomenal,” he said.

Cedar Rapids police tweeted a video of volunteers who gave up their Saturday morning to help out.

Volunteers also helped clear out the first floor of a local elementary school. Cedar Rapids schools tweeted photos of people working Saturday at Taylor Elementary School.

Other cities affected

Other cities and towns in Iowa are also facing serious flooding, including Waterloo and Charles City, CNN affiliate KCRG-TV reported.

CNN affiliate KGAN-TV tweeted photos from cities already seeing flooding.

Disaster declarations

Govs. Terry Branstad of Iowa and Scott Walker of Wisconsin each declared disaster emergencies for 13 counties, freeing up state resources to respond to the flooding.

Branstad tweeted pictures from his stop in Clarksville, where people are already seeing damage.

Cause of flooding

More than 180,000 sandbags, 4,300 linear feet of flood barriers and 27 water pumps have been delivered to the impacted areas by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Brandstad’s office said.

Heavy rain this week in eastern Iowa and southern Wisconsin is behind the flooding. Some cities saw as much as 10 inches of rain between Tuesday and Thursday last week, CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar said.

CNN’s Marlena Baldacci and Joe Sutton contributed to this story.