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Summer of floods: Sportscaster dies in deluge near Des Moines

Heavy rains caused flooding in Des Moines on June 30, leaving cars submerged and roads damaged. According to reports, at least one person has died. (Video: Joe Kristan, Nick Tillinghast)

A Drake University sports broadcaster died Saturday when he was swept away by floodwaters during a major downpour in Des Moines, in yet another extreme rain event to hit a population center in the Lower 48 since May.

The Associated Press reported that Larry Cotler, 66, was trying to get out of a stalled van during the heavy rain. His body was found blocks away about four hours later, the AP reported. Cotler had broadcast games at Drake since 2005.

On Saturday, a complex of heavy thunderstorms swept through Iowa, unloading torrential rainfall. On the north side of Des Moines, widespread totals reached three to eight inches, with some isolated amounts nearing double digits.

As the torrent unfolded, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency, its most severe flood alert. “Numerous” high-water rescues were required due to stranded vehicles.

Ankeny, a northern suburb of Des Moines, posted 8.72 inches of rain, where some of the most severe flooding was reported.

The heavy rain caused streams to rise suddenly, transforming them into raging rivers. Some crested at record levels, reported:

Fourmile Creek at Easton Boulevard in Des Moines rose to 17.1 feet, setting a record for that location. A record flood stage was also observed at Walnut Creek in Des Moines (63rd street) which crested at 19.08 feet. Records have been kept at both of those locations since the 1970s.

As the water collected in area rivers, flooding continued into Monday, where advisories remain in effect.

Des Moines is the latest area to be hard hit by a siege of damaging flash floods since mid-May, all of which prompted emergency situations:

  • Frederick, Md., saw up to half a foot of rainfall in just two hours on May 15. The floodwaters inundated roads, homes and businesses and forced multiple water rescues.
  • Ellicott City, Md., received 6.56 inches in three hours May 27, causing a devastating flash food that inundated the town’s main street, leaving one person dead.
  • On May 29, flooding in western North Carolina forced 18 high-water rescues and caused more than 40 landslides. Two thousand people had to be evacuated when it was feared the Lake Tahoma Dam might fail. Up to seven inches of rain fell.
  • Areas just west of Charlottesville received a foot of rain in several hours on May 30. Two people drowned in the floodwaters.
  • Richmond registered 7.61 inches of rain on June 22, its second rainiest day on record. Over two inches of rain fell in just 15 minutes.
  • Flash flooding in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and northern Wisconsin killed three people in mid-June. A state of disaster was declared in Michigan due to extensive damage, the Detroit Free Press reported. Four to seven inches of rain fell in seven hours in parts of Houghton County, Mich., noted, which opened up “dozens of sinkholes and washed out roads.”
  • Rains from a tropical wave brought severe flooding to several coastal areas of Texas June 19 and 20. Double digit rainfall totals inundated the Harlingen and Weslaco areas in the Rio Grande Valley. Towns just northeast of Corpus Christi and the Beaumont-Port Arthur area also suffered flooding.

Immense rains are causing more flash flooding, and experts say it’s getting worse