Cedar Rapids leaders celebrate, reflect on flood preparation success
'Crazy week' changed city's conversation from possible casino to natural disaster
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The post-flood deconstruction and return to normalcy phase slowly is beginning in Cedar Rapids.
With that also came a period of reflection by city leaders Friday.
“Without that wall, hundreds and hundreds, maybe more, homes and businesses would have been impacted by the flood of 2016,” City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said at the city’s final daily flood-related news conference at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
Pomeranz singled out five public works staff members for the rapid design, construction and round-the-clock maintenance of the 10-mile sand-based temporary flood wall.
He recognized Nate Kampman, city engineer; Mike Duffy, street operations manager; Justin Koller, sewer operations manager; Justin Holland, construction operations manager; and Matt Myers, traffic engineer manager.
‘We Did It’
Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett reflected on the “crazy week” — how in a matter of hours the city conversation changed from discussing a possible downtown casino to a weeklong saga about a potential natural disaster.
He noted the young people who used their week off from school to help, and those who had left the area for college or work who continued to follow along.
“We did it. We came through it,” Corbett said. “This community over the last four, five days, this community stepped up and showed leadership on several fronts, and that is why we were so successful.”
The Cedar River crested at nearly 22 feet Tuesday — the second-highest in the city’s history.
On Friday morning, it dropped below the 16-foot major flood stage for the first time since Sunday.
As of Friday afternoon, the river stood at 14.6 feet, according to the National Weather Service.
“The river has dropped below the 16-foot major flood stage, and I’m pleased to report the city is recovering very quickly,” said Jen Winter, public works director.
The focus now is removing sand-filled barriers, but that work may take a few weeks, Winter said.
The first priority is to remove the barriers blocking roads so that most, if not all, roads are reopened today, she said.
Toward that end, the city announced Friday night that several bridges expected to be closed until today already were open. The Third Avenue, Eighth Avenue and 12th Avenue bridges opened Friday night after sand barriers were removed. The rest are expected to open this morning.
The next priority is to deconstruct the barriers blocking sidewalks and driveways, with the final step being to take down those barriers that aren’t in the way, she said.
While downtown was open to property owners and those who live or work downtown on Friday — and many businesses had already reopened — the downtown should be reopened fully by 7 a.m. today.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart warned residents of scams. The attorney general is providing a mobile office at the downtown library, 450 Fifth Ave. SE, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, for those who experience problems.
“We’ve seen in the past, time and time again, when there are floods and natural disasters, it draws in fraudsters from around the country and around the state — when something is fresh on people’s minds and people are vulnerable,” Miller said.
For all of The Gazette's Flood 2016 coverage, please visit our flood coverage center.