Levee breaks near city, thousands evacuate
Cedar Rapids also loses power; 53 of Iowa's 99 counties are disaster areas

Jeff Roberson / AP
NBC News and news services
updated 27 minutes ago

DES MOINES, Iowa - The rising Cedar River burst through an earthen levee Thursday just outside Cedar Rapids, and at least 10,000 people there have been ordered to evacuate, officials told NBC News.

The evacuations follow a round earlier Thursday when 3,900 homes were cleared out in Iowa City and Cedar Bluffs.

In Cedar Rapids, power is out for most of downtown, complicating rescue efforts, city spokesman Dave Koch told NBC News.

Officials estimate 100 blocks are underwater. "We’re seeing very substantial flooding," said Craig Hanson, the city’s public works maintenance manager.

Cedar Rapids firemen have been organizing boat rescues of stranded residents, Koch said.

The new evacuations follow a 150-foot breach in an earthen levee early Thursday.

If flooding continues, Koch said, Highway 30 will likely be shut down where it intersects the Cedar River.