Residents of central and eastern Iowa watch warily as rivers rise following torrential rain



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DES MOINES, Iowa — Residents of central and eastern Iowa watched warily Tuesday as several rivers rose rapidly and forecasters warned of more flooding and storm damage following two days of severe thunderstorms that produced at least three tornadoes and left two dead.

The National Weather Service said there was major flooding along several rivers in the state that flow into the Mississippi River.

Lucinda Robertson, a spokeswoman for Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said her office received requests from several counties seeking equipment to respond to the flooding.

"There was quite a bit of warning, and communities were doing what they could to prepare," she said. "Obviously, when they receive several inches of rain in a very short period of time it's very difficult."

Around Iowa, residents spent Tuesday cleaning up debris that included flooded basements as well as properties and vehicles damaged by hail and strong winds. Golf ball-size hail was recorded at one point, and severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes were observed by spotters.

Gov. Terry Branstad also was surveying storm and flood damage with state officials. He planned to visit Fairfax, Cedar Rapids and Anamosa, as well as Jackson County. On Monday, he issued an emergency disaster proclamation for Adair, Cedar, Guthrie, Jones and Linn counties.

The National Weather Service confirmed that three tornadoes had hit south central and east central Iowa on Monday. A tornado in Traer was rated as an EF-2, which means its winds ranged between 111 and 135 mph. An EF-1 tornado with peak winds of 100 mph heavily damaged a house and several outbuildings near Stuart.

In Cedar Rapids, authorities recovered the body of a teenager who was swept into a storm drain Monday night. The severe weather recorded Monday also left one man dead in Fairfax, after the building he was in collapsed. Another person in the building suffered nonlife-threatening injuries.

At the Cedar River near Cedar Rapids, waters surpassed flood stage by more than 3 feet Tuesday morning and were expected to crest Thursday at 18.6 feet. At the Wapsipinicon River near Anamosa, the waters were 2 feet above flood stage and were expected to crest at 16 feet Thursday. The Iowa River near Marshalltown was also more than 2 feet above flood stage and was expected to crest Wednesday morning at 22.1 feet.

Cities including Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Iowa City also reported heavy rainfall between Sunday and Monday. Preliminary data show more than 5 inches of rain fell in some areas within a 24-hour period.

The rains capped a record month. State climatologist Harry Hillaker said preliminary data show this past June was Iowa's third wettest June on record. The average precipitation total for the month was only behind rainfall recorded in 2010 and 1947. That much rain has caused some damage to crops, but it's too early to tell the extent.

Isolated thunderstorms are possible Tuesday afternoon into the evening, but not as severe as earlier in the week. Robertson cautioned residents to keep track of the rising waters.

"We want to make sure that people continue to pay attention. We have a few nice days coming up with good weather, but the rivers are going to continue to rise in some areas, so people need to pay attention," she said.

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