CEDAR RAPIDS — Tens of thousands of sandbags and miles of sandbox barriers are helping the city brace for up to 26 feet of water, although the latest prediction puts the river crest a few feet lower.
While forecasts of the height and timing of the crest have changed in the last few days — and could change again — Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said the community is ready.
“We’ve had four days to prepare for this and we haven’t wasted an hour,” Corbett said Saturday. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, where the crest will be on Monday night. I do know this: I know that we will have done everything we possibly could do to protect our city.”
The Linn County Emergency Operations Center is expected to fully activate Sunday morning, said Roger Jensen, its public information officer.
Once activated, the center brings in representatives from various departments, entities and services to collaborate emergency responses.
“As issues arise and questions come to mind concerning a particular service or particular jurisdiction, it can be most quickly answered by having those people in the room,” Jensen said.
One of the center’s largest roles so far has been obtaining resources for Linn County and its cities — including more than 5 miles of sandbox barriers called HESCO barriers for their manufacturer; 72,000 sandbags; 20 dump trucks; and about 130 National Guard and law enforcement personnel from outside the county.
Jensen said those resources are in addition to what local entities already had on hand.
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“As resources are needed that aren’t available in those jurisdictions, the EOC provides that service,” he said.
Cedar Rapids spokeswoman Maria Johnson said the city had a total of 7 1/2 miles of HESCO barriers — 6 miles arrived from the University of Iowa early Saturday — to protect the city for up to 26 feet of water.
“We do have the ability to get more, so we’ll continue to add more walls as we have the time and resources,” Johnson said. “If the projections change, we’ll take measures as that happens.”
Linn County officials earlier this week procured more than 3,000 feet of HESCO barriers and 32,000 sandbags for flood preparations.
The Linn County Sheriff’s Office has been secured against up to about 29 feet of water with HESCO barriers, and crews were placing barriers Saturday around the Linn County Courthouse on May’s Island.
The Linn County Jail also has closed, with inmates being relocated to neighboring counties.
Incident Commander Steve Estenson said officials are taking lessons from 2008 to ensure every sandbag and barrier is in place by the time the floodwaters arrive.
“In 2008, if you would have said (24 feet), we wouldn’t have really known what that meant. We feel that with the resources available now, we’re very much prepared and we have a great respect for when the water gets here. There’s not much you can do, but wait it out until the water goes away,” Estenson said.