MASON CITY - Melting snow, rain and rising rivers caused flooding in North Iowa.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation Thursday for 21 counties as a result of the severe weather beginning Wednesday and continuing through the week.
Reynolds activated Iowa's State Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the response to Iowa's flooding.
The governor's proclamation allows state resources to be utilized to respond to and recover from the effects of this severe weather across the entire state and activates the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program for qualifying residents, along with the Disaster Case Management Program.
The 21 counties include Butler, Cerro Gordo, Clayton, Hancock, Harrison, Humboldt, Ida, Iowa, Kossuth, Mills, Monona, Montgomery, O'Brien, Pottawattamie, Sioux, Webster, Winnebago, Winneshiek, Woodbury, Worth and Wright.
The Individual Assistance Grant Program provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Grants are available for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food and temporary housing expenses. Original receipts are required for those seeking reimbursement for actual expenses related to storm recovery.
The National Weather Service issued a Flood Warning for Cerro Gordo, Winnebago, Butler, Worth, Kossuth, Wright, Hancock and Franklin counties until 10:30 p.m. Friday. Floyd and Mitchell Counties are under a flood watch.
Ice jams are possible through the end of the week as snow melts and rain and milder weather help to break up ice on rivers.
The threat for river flooding will increase through the end of the week into this weekend due to the runoff from the rain and snowmelt.
Excessive runoff from heavy rainfall will cause flooding of small creeks and streams, country roads, farmland and other low lying spots.
Turn around, don't drown when encountering flooded road as most flood deaths occur in vehicles, the National Weather Service warns.
The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch through Friday morning for the Winnebago River at Mason City or from Beaver Creek near Fertile to the Shell Rock River near Rockford.
At 1:30 p.m. Thursday, the stage was 7.6 feet, or 2.4 feet below flood stage. Flood stage is 10 feet for the Winnebago River. A minor flood occured as the water rises Thursday evening and crested at about after midnight. The water began to recede Friday morning.
Flooded roads were closed across North Iowa including in Worth, Hancock and Wright Counties.
Cerro Gordo issued a no travel advisory on all gravel roads in the county due to flooding and deteriorating road conditions.
The Wright County Board of Supervisors declared a local State of Emergency for the county due to flooding.
As of 8 a.m. Thursday, Wright County Secondary Roads reported that more than 50 miles of rural roadways are under water and more are expected to be added as the week continues.
In addition, travel is not advised on the gravel roads throughout Wright County through the end of the week.
The City of Clear Lake said in a Facebook that the thawing snow is creating havoc on gravel roads in the city.
“This winter has been especially difficult because of the heavy February snowfall,” the post said. “Frost boils are causing problems on many of the City’s gravel roads.”
Frost boils, are mounds of mud in the road produced when frozen moisture is pushed to the surface, creating a mound.
“At some locations the material between the frost layer and surface becomes saturated and will not support heavy loads,” the post said. “For this reason, City crews are careful not to repair frost-boils too early in the spring or the repairs may cause more damage to other portions of the road.”
Until the roads stabilize, Clear Lake cannot do much to repair them.
“Please use common sense when driving on gravel roads this spring, especially with large equipment,” the post said. “It would not be uncommon for a heavy truck to sink 2-3 inches into the ground when encountering a frost boil.”
Franklin County Sheriff Aaron Dodd posted on Facebook, noting that gravel roads in the county are becoming more saturated.
“Along with most counties in Northern Iowa, we are warning all drivers to use ‘extreme caution’ when traveling in rural areas,” Dodd said. “Road conditions are deteriorating. We are asking people to stay off of gravel roads this week; unless travel on them is necessary and never travel through flood covered roads.”
A portion of Highway 18 closed for flooding between Garner and Britt.
According to Iowa Department of Transportation, the road is closed between Nash Avenue and Oak Avenue in both directions. The road reopened after noon.
Some North Iowans are already experiencing flooded basements, homes and businesses.
Mason City's Operation and Maintenance Department is offering free sandbags to residents who stop by its offices.
To prepare for possible flooding and high water, citizens can fill up the 200 empty bags available at the site located near 725 N. Massachusetts Ave. anytime of day.