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Saturday, June 14, 2008

UI issues strong warning for onlookers

University of Iowa officials are strongly urging people who are not directly involved with volunteer efforts to avoid the Iowa River, particularly east of the river where sandbagging efforts are continuing today.

The area presents a number of potential safety hazards to drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. The swollen river is filled with fallen trees and other debris that could snag someone standing in or near the water's edge; runoff, including raw sewage and chemicals, is believed to have entered the river upstream; and trucks, skidloaders and other heavy vehicles carrying sandbags and equipment are operating in the area, especially around the Lindquist Center, that present a risk, especially to small children.

The situation is especially critical at the Park Road bridge. As the water continues to rise, pushing against the span, the river could without warning spill further east and west, sweeping onlookers off their feet and into the river. The bridge could also collapse without warning, which could also cause a surge of water.