Little Town, Big Flooding

Home in Plainfield, IA surrounded by sandbags during the 2016 floods. Photograph by Kip Ladage.

Floodwaters poured into Plainfield, Iowa, from all directions during rare fall flooding in 2016. Dan Gilles, an Iowa Flood Center (IFC) water resources engineer, is helping the tiny Northeast Iowa town find solutions for its water problems.

Plainfield is a town of about 450 people. “For these small towns, it’s a lot to take on,” Gilles says. Fortunately, the IFC is committed to serving Iowans. In response to Plainfield’s request for assistance, the IFC sent Gilles to model the flow of water through the community. Stormwater movement modeling software allowed him to simulate the flow in Plainfield, including ditches, culverts, and more. He also used LiDAR (laser radar) data to create a model of overland flow. Gilles used the modeling results to write a report recommending mitigation projects for Plainfield to help city officials get funding for the projects.

Plainfield is only one of the small towns that have benefitted from the expertise of the Iowa Flood Center. IFC engineers have also worked with officials from Kalona, Clarksville, and others to solve complex water issues.