Evacuation orders remain in effect for northern Iowa town after levee break, flash flooding

Emergency officials even took to sounding tornado sirens to get the town's attention to the emergency at hand.

ROCK VALLEY, Iowa – A levee break along Iowa's Rock River early Saturday morning led to a frantic evacuation in the town of Rock Valley in the dark of night as water levels suddenly began rising, flooding parts of town.

The National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Emergency, and city officials even took to sounding tornado sirens to get the town's attention to the urgent situation at hand. 

"We are setting off sirens in (Rock Valley)," the Sioux County Sheriff’s Office posted on social media. "This means to evacuate your house if able." 

Rock Valley city officials have been posting updated maps on their town's social media feeds, showing growing areas of evacuation orders. The sheriff’s office reported at least two bridges and roads had washed out as dawn broke over Iowa.  

Drone video shot by the Sioux County Sheriff's Office shows dozens of homes and buildings inundated with floodwaters.

"The City of Rock Valley urges residents to stay out of floodwaters," the city said on Facebook. "Residents who choose to go back into flood waters to check on their homes or retrieve belongings or pets, enter at their own risk. Our city first responders and personnel cannot be pulled away or sent back into the flood water if evacuations are not followed."


A shelter was established at a local church. But as the waters rose, getting people there became more challenging.

"Currently, we have dive teams, swift boats and task force teams in the water," city officials posted in an update later Saturday morning. "Using pickups, tractors, trucks or loaders is no longer an option for evacuation because of the water current and height. Please know all boats and teams are doing all they can to get to each and every one of your loved ones."

This graphic shows the top rainfall totals.
(FOX Weather)


A rain gauge in Rock Valley reported over 6 inches of rain over the past several days, while nearby towns of Ashton and Terril reported around 8 inches of rain, with Rock Rapids reporting just under a foot as multiple thunderstorms swept across the area. 

Some of those nearby towns were facing destructive flooding issues as well.

Flooding along the Big Sioux River at Hawarden exceeded its record crest by 4 feet, leading to mandatory evacuations in town. City officials say power was turned off to parts of town that were underwater, and the water and sewer treatment plant was shut down due to inundation. 

River forecast for Big Sioux River at Hawarden, Iowa.
(FOX Weather)


Officials urged residents there not to use any water, including drinking or flushing toilets. 

Emergency officials also had their hands full in Iowa’s O’Brien County with widespread flooding and multiple rescues.

"O’Brien County first responders have performed several water rescues of people trapped in their vehicles after being swept away," county officials posted on social media. "The flooding has created significant challenges for first responders trying to get to these scenes. County roads and the Iowa DOT are doing their best to put up barricades, but the widespread flooding has their resources stretched thin."

And in nearby Lyon County, flooding is being blamed for a train derailment near Alvord.  Nine train cars were knocked off the tracks around 4:30 a.m. Friday, the Lyon County Sheriff's Office said. But no hazardous materials were spilled or involved.

Iowa's Gov. Kim Richards issued an emergency disaster proclamation for Sioux County, directing state resources to help Rock Valley and other flooded communities in Iowa.