Cedar Rapids begins erecting temporary flood protection
System should protect up to 24 feet, but property owners still advised to take action
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Miles of HESCO barriers, earthen levies and berms, dams and sandbag mounds are to be erected over the next 48 hours to protect the east and west sides of the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids up to 24 feet of river elevation.
As of Friday midday, the river level was about 9.5 feet, but it is predicted to reach the 16-foot major flood stage by Sunday afternoon and crest at 24 feet on Monday afternoon. By 24 feet, several key areas in and around downtown, would be underwater, including the New Bohemia District, Czech Village and the Time Check neighborhood.
Even though city officials said they are confident in the measures being taken, residents in affected areas must still protect themselves by moving personal items out of harm’s way.
“We are putting temporary measures in place for protection, but we are still asking businesses and residents to take precautions and do what they can to get their belongings out,” said Jen Winter, Cedar Rapids public works director. “It is likely if the projection stays at 24 feet or increases, we will still be evacuating those inundation areas in case those temporary control measures are breached. We still want everyone to be safe.”
Winter said the city plans to complete erecting the temporary system up to a 24-foot protection level by dusk Sunday. A decision about evacuation notices would come on Sunday at 8 a.m.
Winter said city officials are focusing their efforts in multiple places, including First Avenue SE and 16th Avenue SE along the river, and on the west side along Ellis Boulevard and Czech Village, where earthen berms and levees are planned.
She said while the staging of the flood protection system varies by location, generally it is to be assembled down the center of streets, including 16th Avenue, Ellis Boulevard and Eighth Avenue.
“In most cases you’ll see these measures running down the street,” she said.
Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said the No. 1 need at this time is volunteers to help sandbag. Those wishing to lend a hand should report to the Ellis Park Pavilion, NewBo City Market or Time Check Neighborhood near Fifth Street and F Avenue NW with shovels. People needing to move their cars can park them at the Westdale Mall parking lot or the Ladd Library.
Corbett said based on current projections, 2,300 parcels would be affected, including 389 commercial properties, 1,349 residential properties and 500 city properties, many of which the city acquired after the 2008 flood through a volunteer flood buyout program.
The Cedar Rapids City Council passed a resolution on Friday declaring a state of emergency.
For all of The Gazette's Flood 2016 coverage, please visit our flood coverage center.