American flags dotting the Main Street in Hamburg represented more than just a show of patriotism on Memorial Day weekend. Those flags, which were put up by the Hamburg Boy Scouts, represented hope and the spirit of a small town whose residents simply refuse to stop fighting.
Al Dovel of the City of Hamburg exited a meeting on Saturday night with contractors at city hall and went off to do more work. His mission and that of all the city employees and residents was to make sure that Hamburg was as ready as it could be for whatever may lie ahead.
The contractors had just secured an agreement to complete new Hesco barriers through the middle of town.
Hamburg put up such barrier a down E Street during the initial flooding of town back in mid-March. The barrier breached at that time.
Water receded and the barrier remained. On Saturday, city employees were completing 24 hours of hauling some 5,000 tons of sand in an effort to replace the barrier.
Dovel said it had been decided in the week leading up to Saturday that the barrier, which had water against it before and had weak points, should be torn out in favor of a new barrier, two rows this time, instead of just one.
The Army Corps of Engineers, which also recently completed flood protection barrier work to protect two wells, a lift station and a pump for a water system that had just restored potable water a week ago, was set to begin the new Hesco build in a three-day effort.
As the work continued, the river was rising.
It threatened and then closed Highway 2 connecting Nebraska City to Southwest Iowa on Saturday night. And new water was coming. The Army Corps of Engineers had increased releases for Gavins Point dam in South Dakota and the forecast for rain all but guaranteed that flooding would be increased.
Solid answers from the Army Corps of Engineers had not been given to Hamburg in regard to possibilities or policies. The water level could rise. The releases at Gavins Point might go up again in the coming weeks.
Dovel said by Friday, May 31, the river guage was forecasted to read 22.5 feet. The hope is that the protection for the town could stand 22 feet and a little above as long as the event was short lived. If the ground became saturated or the water was higher, however, the water could enter town and the Hesco barrier would have to stand as Hamburg’s protection from further flooding.
With 50-plus breaches along the Missouri River system north and south of Hamburg, the threat of flooding is always imminent.
Dovel said the plan was to do all that could be reasonably done.
“Until some of (the levees) get fixed, we are just one rain event away from disaster,” said Dovel. “That’s why all these precautions are being done. We don’t know what’s going to happen with Mother Nature.”