It's too early to say how quickly Interstate 29 and other flood-affected roads and bridges can reopen, because damage can still occur, said Bob Younie, head of maintenance for the Iowa Department of Transportation.
Younie said crews will begin clearing debris off roads, assessing damage and making repairs as soon as the water recedes and the areas are deemed safe.
Officials do not yet know how long it will take for the more than 50 miles of flood-impacted roads to dry out — or how severe the damage is, he said.
If the damage falls short of worst-case, closed roads could be reopened to traffic this year, Younie said.
"We just need motorists to be patient and know that when the roads do open, they'll be safe," he said.
The schedule of upstream reservoir releases unveiled Friday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was a necessary step for roads officials and others to start plotting efforts to rebuild.
Younie has said that the stretch of I-29 near Hamburg could be the first to reopen.
About a foot of water covers the highway near the town, and some water continues to gush beneath two Interstate overpasses. That could damage the soil buttressing those overpasses and approach ramps, he said.
Several feet of water also cover the area where Interstates 680 and 29 come together north of Council Bluffs, he said, and the approach to the Mormon Bridge likely suffered some scour.
In an effort to understand the damage as quickly as possible, some sonar soundings are already being taken, including at the Iowa approach to the Highway 175 bridge at Decatur, Neb.
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