Louisa County expects minimal flood damage

Columbus Junction, Wapello expected to see crests Friday

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COLUMBUS JUNCTION — As river levels in Cedar Rapids slowly decrease, Louisa County to the south was bracing for its flood crest.

Columbus Junction, a small town located next to where the Iowa and Cedar Rivers meet, is expected to see a crest of just over 26 feet Friday morning, well above its flood stage of 19 feet.

Louisa County officials, who had been meeting regularly with the city, are skeptical water levels actually will get that high or cause much damage.

“Everything is going quite well,” said Mallory Smith, Columbus Junction’s community development director. “We’re sitting back and we’re watching it to see how it develops.”

Officials say no homes are in danger this time because many of them were bought and turned into parks after the floods of 1993 and 2008. Instead, the county expects just some wetlands and farms to fill up.

“As long as all of those hold, then we won’t have any actual home or family damage,” said Staci Griffin, Louisa County’s director of emergency management.

Columbus Junction has a levy that protects the city from floodwaters, and officials set up sand barriers on Highway 98 to ensure the road remains open, although Smith doesn’t expect they will be needed.

Smith said flood prepping went so smoothly because everyone has learned from previous severe flood events.

“Everybody gets better every year,” Smith said. “It’s been rather nice.”

After Columbus Junction, the Iowa River is expected to crest in Wapello at 28 feet early Friday afternoon, where all major roads are expected to remain open as well. Wapello has a flood stage of 20 feet.

In an effort to prevent major flooding in these towns, the Army Corps of Engineers has reduced Coralville Lake’s output into the Iowa River, from 6,000 cubic feet per second to 1,000 cfs. Shawn Sharp, deputy Johnson County emergency manager, said this is a common practice during flooding events.

“That allows the crest that went through Cedar Rapids already to work its way down,” Sharp said. “That way they don’t get flooding from both rivers at one time.”

Because the outflow has been reduced, the Coralville Lake should begin to slowly take on water until it hits about 701 feet Monday. At that point, the Corps should return the flow to normal and avoid it breaching the spillway at 712 feet.

“We’re very appreciative of that,” Smith said. “The Corps has done an excellent job of managing the water from our point of view.”

Once the crest is out of the way, Smith said she is looking forward to the city returning to normal and focusing on its Columbus Day celebration.

“All of your energy, all of your focus gets put on the flood,” Smith said.

For all of The Gazette's Flood 2016 coverage, please visit our flood coverage center.

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