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Davenport, Iowa, endures major flooding as the Mississippi River reaches record levels near the city

Parts of Arkansas, Iowa and Indiana were underwater after severe flooding began on April 30. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)
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Large parts of downtown Davenport, Iowa, were submerged this week as a record crest on the Mississippi River led to a flood barrier failure.

Around 6 p.m. Thursday, a river gauge at Rock Island to the south of Davenport reached 22.7 feet. Once verified, this will be a record for that location, which has 50 years of data.

While still unofficial, the record water level tops a 22.63 foot reading during the Great Flood of 1993, with the mark set on July 9 that year. The reading is almost eight feet above flood stage.

Davenport is Iowa’s third-largest city, and the largest on the Mississippi River without permanent flood control. On Tuesday afternoon, a temporary barrier there failed. A wall of water then rushed into downtown before the river kept rising.

A number of people had to be rescued from several locations given how swiftly the water rose.

While major flooding is ongoing from the east-central border area of Iowa to near St. Louis on the Mississippi River, Davenport is seeing some of the worst. Illinois City, to Davenport’s southwest about 20 miles, is also seeing a crest only a half-foot or so from its 1993 high mark.

Scenes of flooding along the Mississippi

May 5, 2019 | Marissa Whitman, 20, wades in about three feet of floodwater from the swelling Mississippi River, while guiding a boat carrying her boyfriend, Brendan Cameron, and his mother in East Foley, Mo. (Laurie Skrivan/AP)

River levels are near peak for this latest flooding episode. But, in many spots, moderate to a major flooding will persist for at least a week even as waters slowly recede. New rain could stop this recession or even cause water levels to rise again.

Following a record wet winter for the nation and a soggy 2018, as well, episodes of flooding have come in several waves in the central United States. In 1993, similar waves continued deep into the summer season.

The outlook for both the short term and longer term suggests more rain is on the way. In large parts of the Mississippi River basin, May is the wettest month in the calendar season. With high odds of above normal precipitation in the coming weeks, those living in areas near rivers will remain on guard for more.