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'Catastrophic release of water' threatens Iowa towns

The Lake Delhi dam in eastern Iowa failed as rising floodwater ate a 30-foot-wide portion of the road, causing water to plunge 45 feet to the river below and threatening towns.

Northeast Iowa has been inundated with torrential rain in recent days with as much as 9 inches being reported in some locations. The heavy rain has pushed the Maquoketa River to 23.92 feet — more than 2 feet above its previous record of 21.66 feet in 2004.

Jack Klaus, a spokesman with the Delaware County emergency management office, said warning sirens were sounding in the town of Hopkinton as water began to surround homes there Saturday afternoon. Areas below and above the dam had been evacuated, including numerous cabins and homes — as many as 700 — above the dam because of high water.

"There's going to be significant losses of property there," Klaus said.  

The road breach sparked officials’ worst fears of “a catastrophic release of water,” David Fink, Lake Delhi dam operation manager, told the Des Moines Register. “It’s going to have a hell of a lot of velocity.”

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