Flood levels still disastrous in Iowa City

Sunday, June 15, 2008 | 8:05 p.m. CDT; updated 12:49 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A week’s work of frantic sandbagging by students, professors and the National Guard couldn’t spare this college town from the surging Iowa River, which has swamped more than a dozen campus buildings and forced the evacuation Sunday of hundreds of nearby homes.

The swollen river, which bisects this city of about 60,000 residents, was topping out at about 31.5 feet — a foot and a half below earlier predictions. But it still posed a lingering threat and wasn’t expected to begin receding until Monday night.

The University of Iowa said 16 buildings had been flooded, including one designed by acclaimed architect Frank O. Gehry and said others were at risk.

Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey said 500 to 600 homes were ordered to evacuate and hundreds of others were under a voluntary evacuation order through the morning. The city had no estimate of the number of homes that had actually flooded.

Bailey said homeowners will not be allowed back until the city determines it’s safe.

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