Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Vinton gear up for flooding
Coralville Lake OK, escaped most of heavy rain
CEDAR RAPIDS — Officials in communities upstream on the Cedar River are gearing up for flooding and doing so in an even shorter time than its downstream neighbor Cedar Rapids.
Waterloo-Cedar Falls is bracing for the Cedar to crest on Saturday at levels second only to the flood of 2008.
The Cedar in Waterloo is expected to crest in Waterloo at 22 feet, slightly above the 1961 flood of 21.86 but considerably lower of 27.01 feet. Flood stage is 13 feet.
Downtown Waterloo bridges will be closed if additional rainfall pushes the crest to 24 feet, city officials said.
In Cedar Falls, which uses a different measuring system, the river is expected to crest at 97.5 feet, below the 2008 record of 102.10 feet and slightly above the 1999 flood’s 96.2 crest. Flood stage is 88 feet.
Firefighters and police were knocking on doors of residents in low-lying areas, advising them of the rising waters and giving them the option to leave.
North Cedar Elementary is to be close today. Gas service is being disconnected to some Cedar Falls customers in low areas.
“We’re keeping an eye on the situation and praying for no more rain,” Black Hawk County Emergency Management coordinator Lori Glover said.
In Evansdale, a community of 4,700 just southeast of Waterloo, city officials are calling for volunteers to sandbag this morning at the city’s street garage. Waterloo and Cedar Falls are not calling for sandbag volunteers now, but will have sandbags available.
Torrential rain left a swath of soggy ground and flooded roads from Mason City southeast generally across Floyd, northern Butler and Chickasaw counties.
Greene was among the hardest hit communities, as overnight storms downed trees, limbs and power lines, while torrential upstream rains caused the Shell Rock river to spill out of its banks. Many roads into town were impassible due to high water.
Classes were canceled but students showed up to fill sandbags at North Butler High School.
Areas of Greene and Clarksville were evacuated as they were overtaken by the Shell Rock River. Many homes, businesses and the post office were under waist-deep water at noon Thursday as the water continued to rise.
Vinton Mayor John Watson said Thursday that city workers will put 400 feet of portable HESCO flood barriers along the banks of the Cedar near the city’s municipal electric utility.
The Cedar is forecast to crest Sunday in Vinton at 22.1 feet — just above major flood stage.
“We’re going to get braced for a 22-foot level and hope it doesn’t go any more,” Watson said.
The river crested at 24.7 feet in 2008 in the Benton County community of 5,000.
Watson noted much can change in terms of flood projections, but he said he’d rather be safe than sorry.
“If we just have to put (HESCO barriers) up for practice, fine, we’ll take them down,” he said.
Linn County officials are gearing up for flooding along the Cedar, which is expected to crest Tuesday at 8 feet above major flood stage.
The Linn County Board of Supervisors has scheduled a special meeting for noon today at the Jean Oxley Public Service Center, 935 Second St. SW, to designate county risk manager Steve Estenson as the county’s temporary incident commander for the expected flooding.
As risk manager, Estenson would have authority to act on behalf of the county and coordinate any response.
Joi Alexander, the county’s communications director, said county departments are taking steps to protect county assets, including stored record books and vehicles.
The Iowa River basin dodged much of this week’s heavy rainfall.
Dee Goldman, the Army Corps of Engineers operations manager at Coralville Lake, said the reservoir increased the lake’s outflow on Saturday to 6,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) — the maximum allowed by the Corps regulation plan — to manage last week’s rainfall.
“The lake is still rising,” Goldman said Thursday. “We’ve got more than 6,000 cubic feet per second coming in.”
Goldman added that outflow would drop to 1,000 CFS on Tuesday to lessen the impact on Columbus Junction, where the Iowa and Cedar rivers meet about 30 miles southeast of Iowa City.
The reservoir is expected to top out at 697 feet, about 15 feet below the spillway.
“We got pretty fortunate,” Goldman said. “There are no real big concerns at this point.”
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