Northeast Iowa reeling from 'life-threatening' flooding

A flooded home near Decorah
A flooded home near Decorah, Iowa, on Wednesday. The Upper Iowa River flooded after torrential downpours fell in the area.
Mark Steil | MPR News

Updated: Aug. 25, 8:22 a.m. | Posted: Aug. 24, 8:59 a.m.

Northeast Iowa residents are cleaning up and assessing damage following torrential downpours Tuesday night. At least one person was killed in the flash flooding, according to reports.

The region experienced "major flooding" after more than 8 inches of rain fell as a series of thunderstorms moved through the area, said Winneshiek County Sheriff Dan Marx.

Basements in hundreds of homes in the county were flooded, Marx said.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency for four counties after the overnight rains, saying that "widespread and life-threatening flooding" was occurring.

Workers walk down a flooded street in Freeport.
Workers walk down a flooded street in Freeport, Iowa.
Mark Steil | MPR News

More than a dozen homes on the eastern edge of Decorah in the community of Freeport were surrounded by water. Mudslides and water over roads was also reported in Richland and Crawford counties in Wisconsin," the weather service said.

Some basement walls collapsed and many roads were washed out in the area.

Marx says other hard hit areas in the county included the communities of Spillville, Fort Atkinson and Bluffton.

River gauges along the Upper Iowa River recorded rises of more than 10 feet in a very short time early Wednesday, according to MPR News meteorologist Paul Huttner.

In the tiny community of Freeport near Decorah, homeowner Ron Teslow was busy pumping water out of his flooded basement on Wednesday. He says the nearby Upper Iowa River overflowed, flooding more than a dozen homes.

Teslow said a friend alerted him early Wednesday morning to what was happening.

"I woke up this morning when my neighbor called me and said 'You out of bed yet?' and I said no and he said, 'Well you better get up, because the water was up to his deck," Teslow recalled.

Old Stage Road
Old Stage Road near the Decorah Waste Water Treatment Plant just outside of Freeport.
Winneshiek County Sheriff's Office via Facebook

Teslow says he ended up with more than 3 feet of water in his basement.

Nearby, more than two feet of water surrounded John Aske's home. He says part of a basement wall collapsed in the flood.

"About 4:15, 4:30 (Wednesday morning) we just heard a crash and the basement foundation crashed in," Aske said.

He says not sure if he'll be able to repair the house.

Ron Teslow gets help starting cleanup at his home.
Ron Teslow (in grey T-shirt) gets help beginning clean up at his house in Freeport, a small community on the eastern edge of Decorah.
Mark Steil | MPR News

An emergency shelter was open in Decorah at the Stone Ridge Community Church just off Highway 9 for people flooded out of their homes.

Officials are warning motorists not to drive on roads that have standing water. Flood warnings are in effect until Thursday in most of northeast Iowa.

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