Gulf of Mexico
Geese take a left as a truck passes through the flooded intersection of East River Drive and Ripley Street on May 30 in Davenport. Flooding has caused $2 billion in damages along the Mississippi River, officials said Tuesday. JESSICA GALLAGHER /

Flooding along Missisippi River has caused at least $2 billion in damage

As Davenport continues to recover from the most devastating flooding disaster in recent memory, the combined impact of flooding in cities along the Mississippi River is estimated to be more than $2 billion.

River mayors aligned with the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative held a news conference Tuesday morning to discuss the wide impact of flooding events along the Mississippi corridor. Flooding along the river, caused in part by heavy snowmelt to the north followed by heavy spring rainfall, has led to events many officials describe as unprecedented.

Colin Wellenkamp, executive director, said more exact figures will take time to compile, and they are working with the insurance industry to come up with preliminary statistics. But he’s confident the financial toll will be greater than $2 billion, saying the cities were already close to that in March.

The figure takes into account losses in farming, navigation and manufacturing, Wellenkamp said.

Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch, the coalition’s co-chair, pointed to the long duration of flooding as a major contributing factor to the late April breach that caused floodwater to flow through several city blocks of the city’s downtown. Since then, dozens of businesses have been negatively affected by loss of sales, and some say they will shut their doors for good.

Klipsch said flooding is part of a longer pattern of “climate-related issues” for Iowa, saying the state experienced heavy economic losses following cyclones and droughts as well. He also outlined wetland expansion and the possibility of other river protection models to help address what will be the “new normal” of high-level flooding on the Mississippi.

Klipsch repeated his plan to form a task force to review long-term flood plans for the city, saying he hopes the group will hold its first meeting shortly after the July 4 holiday.

"It’s a long struggle, we know we have work to be done, (and) we have to look at intermediate plans because we’ll probably receive more flooding in the future before we can have a long-term bigger initiative in place,” the mayor said.

Meanwhile, Jared Gartman with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the breach in Davenport is one of 30 that were caused by overtopping or failures of the levee systems. He described the events as a “total system flood” that has created challenges for communities all along the river and its tributaries.

The exact cause of the breach in Davenport is still being examined by the Corps, according to city officials.

Another major issue causing concern for farmers is the loss of roughly 3 million acres of planting thanks to record-breaking levels of rain and a cool spring, according to officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Deputy Chief Economist Wayne Preston says roughly 3 million acres of corn has been reduced as a result of those seasonal conditions, which translates to an expected total loss of income around $4.5 billion.

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