ASBURY, Iowa -- Tears welled in the eyes of Scott Bahl and his sister-in-law Kathy Bahl on Wednesday as they surveyed the wreckage of a 100-plus-year-old barn on Asbury Road.
High winds accompanying thunderstorms collapsed the structure, but seven goats and six calves hid in a corner of the barn at Bahl Family Farm in Asbury and survived relatively unscathed.
“The north wall stayed and the roof collapsed into a ‘V’ where the animals were,” Kathy Bahl said.
But the future of the business is now uncertain, she said.
“We’ve been toying with whether we can continue selling Christmas trees,” she said. “This is kind of the answer to that. We’re not sure. Possibly, we’ll rebuild.”
The barn was one of many casualties of storms that raged throughout the tri-states, downing power lines, damaging buildings, washing out roads and even prompting some evacuations. But no storm-related injuries were reported in the tri-states area.
Area residents spent much of the day Wednesday cleaning up detritus scattered by 70-plus-mph winds and torrential rainfall. The Telegraph Herald spent the day out in the area, gathering accounts of the aftermath of the storm’s wrath.
Beginning in the evening hours Tuesday, several rounds of thunderstorms blasted the area. Hail, wind, periods of heavy rain and flash flooding were reported throughout northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin and northwest Illinois.
More than 8 inches of rain fell on Osterdock, Iowa, in Clayton County by 1 a.m. Wednesday, and about 20 nearby residents were evacuated due to flooding along Little Turkey River and Mill Creek.
Flash flooding and washed-out roads also were reported in Grant and Crawford counties in Wisconsin.
Dubuque was hit by flash flooding and strong winds, toppling trees, including one that forced the closure of U.S. 52 near Durango. A wind gust of 75 mph was recorded at Dubuque Regional Airport at 12:41 a.m. Wednesday.
The storm knocked out power to thousands of people in the greater Dubuque area.
“At our peak, we had around 10,000 customers out,” said Alliant Energy spokesman Justin Foss.
Dubuque police responded to 46 reports of trees or branches down and blocking roads. There were also three reports of vehicles stranded in standing water, six reports of manhole covers displaced by water pressure and two traffic lights blown askew.
A TOTAL LOSS
Kathy Bahl said the loss of the barn comes amid a string of recent losses and setbacks for the family, including the death of her husband in 2011. Another barn on the farm built in 1913 burnt to the ground a year and a half ago.
The barn that collapsed Wednesday was built in 1921, Kathy said.
“It scared all of us,” she said of the storm. “But there could have easily been more damage. We are thankful that’s not the case … and no one was hurt and the animals came out OK.”
Scott Bahl, who lives across the street from the farm on Asbury Road, “spent many a day growing up” inside the barn.
“It hurts,” he said, his voice cracking.
He said the first storm cell shook his house, downed trees and knocked out power.
Scott said he helped a Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department deputy removed downed limbs that were blocking the road before the rain and wind started up again.
“You could just hear (the wind) howling, and it did almost sound like a train,” he said. “We thought we heard a big crash, but we just thought it was a tree. Then, all of the sudden, I looked outside up here and (saw) it was the barn lying flat on the ground.
“They’ll have to see if they can rebuild something here, but you can never replace an over-100-year-old barn."
The flooding was the worst 86-year-old Arleta Hankes has seen in 67 years living at her home on Millville Road just south of Osterdock.
She and her daughter Brenda Fassbinder were evacuated by Fassbinder's nephew at about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Fassbinder said the water was halfway up the side of her car in the garage and flooded the entire first floor of the house.
"A Clayton County dispatcher called and said there was flooding, but there's been flooding before," Fassbinder said. "My nephew came and got us once we realized how dangerous it was."
Both Fassbinder, who works in the Clayton County Sheriff's Department, and her mother said they were grateful no one was seriously hurt and that they have family to lean on during a tough time.
"I'm used to taking these phone calls (for help), not calling them," Fassbinder said.
The women are staying with Hankes' other daughter, Roxy Knockel, and her family until they get back on their feet. Hankes said she doesn't know whether the house will be salvageable.
OFFICIAL: BEE BRANCH WORKING
City of Dubuque Civil Engineer Deron Muehring said the recently completed Upper Bee Branch Creek functioned as designed in the storms. It helped lessen street flooding by funneling stormwater into the creek, allowing streets to drain more efficiently.
“At Elm and 22nd streets, the water used to get 3- to 4-feet deep, and cars would stall and get stranded in the street,” he said. “Now, the deepest it gets is about 6 to 10 inches.”
The creek restoration is part of a multi-phased project to mitigate flooding, improve water quality and stimulate investment within the 6.5-square-mile Bee Branch Creek watershed.
“There are multiple phases of the project yet to complete," Muehring noted.
That includes construction of larger storm sewers along 17th Street from Elm to West Locust streets, and on 22nd Street west from Elm through Central Avenue and then up Kaufmann Avenue to Kane Street. That likely will address street flooding like that which occurred Wednesday.
The largest piece yet to be completed is an estimated $18 million to $20 million project to build new culverts under railroad property southeast of Garfield Avenue. The culverts will connect the Upper Bee Branch to the completed Lower Bee Branch.
“While it’s providing a significant benefit today (by helping keep water of basements), it will provide three times as much benefit once we get the culverts through the railroad tracks," Muehring said.
DUBUQUE COUNTY FAIR
At the Dubuque County Fairgrounds in Dubuque, about 15 to 20 volunteers worked to clean up downed trees and branches scattered across the fairgrounds, as a roofing company assessed damage to a hog barn and poultry building.
Fair Manager Kevin Kotz said the wind from the storm turned back the metal roof to the poultry building and tore open a 20-foot-by-40-foot section of roof to the hog barn.
But he said the buildings will be repaired in time for the fair, which starts July 25.
Derby Grange Golf, located at 13079 Derby Grange Road, also sustained damage in the overnight storms.
“We had extensive tree damage with branches (down),” said owner Ron Breitbach. “We took three truckloads of branches out of Derby Grange.”
The facility’s golf and driving range operations are still active, but the batting cages sustained heavy damage and will be out of commission for some time. Breitbach said he still is awaiting word from insurance adjustors, but he expects the cages to be closed for up to a few weeks.
The fury of the winds was “surprising,” Breitbach said.
“We’ve been open since 1995, and that’s probably the strongest winds we’ve had at Derby Grange,” he said.