Iowa's only island city preparing for flood - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa's only island city preparing for flood

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SABULA (KWWL) -- Iowa's only island city now has more than 13,000 sandbags to brace against whatever the Mighty Mississippi brings.

Sabula is less than two square miles and is home to fewer than 600 residents, which is down nearly 100 people from the 2000 census. Despite its size, the community has a lot of support.

"We're surrounded by water, year-round," mayor Darrell Rittmer said Sunday. "Water's underneath the ground here all the time."

Rittmer is a native of Iowa's only island city, which is surrounded by three lakes and the Mississippi River. He said the city is preparing for a flood.

"We got ready for it, that's why we got all the sandbags, and now, all of a sudden, they've said it's going to be lower than expectation, so we're just waiting to see what happens."

Sabula now has more than 13,000 sandbags on hand, thanks to community volunteers.

"Our school came down and everything and helped," 15-year-old Brandon Meyer said.

He and his friends helped stack sandbags for the city and at his grandparents' house, which sits just feet from the Mississippi River.

"It floods really bad here. It come up to the deck, almost, in 2001," Meyer said, pointing up at his grandparents' second-floor balcony.

With Sabula's dikes and flood pumps, few properties risk even moderate flood damage.

Mayor Rittmer said the campground will flood. One of the biggest threats, however, is the closure of the bridge to Savanna, Ill. Many Sabula residents go there to work and buy groceries. The bridge is closed when the river is near major flood stage.

"They gotta go to work, they either gotta drive to Clinton, come up, or go to Dubuque and come down," Rittmer said of circumnavigating the potentially closed bridge.

Of course, residents hope it doesn't come to that, as they wait to see what kind of flooding comes down the river.

"This year I hope we don't have any," Rittmer said. "If we don't use any sandbags, we'll be happy, but if we have to, we've got them here and are proud of what the kids and the citizens did for us."

Fortunately, neither sandbags nor community spirit have an expiration date.

City officials have been working with Jackson County and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Rittmer said residents can contact the city about getting sandbags for the property.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

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