Flooding closes interstates in Iowa, Wisconsin; Des Moines evacuating

| 6/13/2008

With stretches of several highways already closed or under threat of closure because of flooding, much of the country is preparing for even higher water as weather forecasts call for more rain this weekend. Routing is becoming increasingly troublesome for truckers.

In eastern Iowa, Department of Transportation officials closed a 140-mile stretch of Interstate 80 Thursday night, June 12, as floodwaters came up more rapidly than expected. The highway is closed from Des Moines to Davenport until further notice.

Officials had expected to close a much shorter section of the highway Friday afternoon, but DOT spokeswoman Dena Gray-Fisher told “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio that the decision was made to close the interstate at about 8 p.m. Thursday.

Gray-Fisher said I-80 will remain closed for at least several days, and even after the floodwaters subside, highway engineers will have to check the entire stretch for damage before reopening the interstate.

In Wisconsin, flooding hadn’t shut down an entire interstate as of Friday midday, but it had already closed travel in one direction on at least three major highways. The state DOT reported that, as of Friday morning, travel was limited to one direction on sections of Interstates 39, 94 and 90/94 near Madison.

Officials expect the closures to be in effect for at least several days.

Traffic patterns in and around Des Moines, IA, are disrupted and expected to remain so because of an evacuation of the city. Evacuation was scheduled for Friday evening because the Des Moines River is expected to be at or near a record high by 8 p.m.

Trucking companies located in the Des Moines area were scrambling on Friday to handle operations and the floodwaters.

Christina Albaugh, Johnsrud Transport, reported late Friday afternoon that the company’s Des Moines terminal was about 15 minutes from the area being evacuated and so far, it was business as usual.

Mike Boyd, Outbound Operations Manager for Saia Trucking in Des Moines, told Land Line Magazine the terminal was not underwater, but with massive road closures, it has become problematic to deliver freight to many areas.

“We serve Cedar Rapids and they are under water, and we go to Ottumwa, and they are flooded,” he said. “We don’t know when we’ll be able to deliver. It’s up to Mother Nature, I guess.”

With 1,100 company-owned tractors, 2,500 van trailers, 2,000 team drivers, 350 single drivers, and more than 250 independent contractors, CRST International’s Web site boasts it has the equipment and the people to “get your freight moving.” But add this Cedar Rapids trucking company to the list of those dealing with closed roads, shippers, receivers and employees dealing with floodwater.

On Friday afternoon, management was “unable to deal” with the press, but a switchboard operator hurriedly reported that the terminal was not underwater. She said the homes of many employees were. According to press reports, 100 square blocks of the city are under water. Although many places without power, CRST still had electricity.

Staff Writer Reed Black and Managing Editor Sandi Soendker compiled this report.