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Vinton, Palo residents prepare for rising river levels

Coming flood reminiscent of 2008, residents say

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VINTON/PALO — Residents in communities north of Cedar Rapids prepared for the worst Friday as the Cedar River continues to rise to levels not seen since 2008.

The Cedar River is expected to crest at 23 feet by Sunday afternoon in Vinton, about 30 miles northwest of Cedar Rapids.

Crews focused efforts on protecting the city’s municipal electric plant at 203 E. Second St. by installing as many as two layers of HESCO barriers around the building Friday. The Vinton Fire Department, as well as volunteers from neighboring towns, have been working on the effort since Thursday.

Kirkwood Community College’s Benton County Center evacuated its building on West Third Street, and moved all its furniture, technology and materials to another location.

“We went through this in 2008, I didn’t think we’d have to go through that again,” said Meg Walker, high school completion instructor at the Benton County Center.

Troy McQuillen, vice president of facilities and security at Kirkwood Community College, also evacuated in 2008.

“It’s the same protocol, but we’re beefing it up some because of lessons learned in 2008,” McQuillen said.

Kirkwood officials still are deciding on how to address disrupted classes.

McQuillen said they hope to provide technology for students to take Iowa Communications Network based classes on their personal laptops.

He said they are reaching out to other facilities, such as the Vinton-Shellsburg Middle school, about temporarily holding classes at the school.

“If there’s no water (in the building), we’ll be back in operation in two days,” McQuillen said.

Resa Berger, who lives next to Vinton’s municipal electric utility was trying Friday to move out as much as she could.

Berger moved into her rental property on Third Avenue seven months ago with her two children, Kaylee McKibben, 15, and Libby McKibben, 11.

“I took time to move in, made it our home,” Berger said. “Every picture on the wall was perfect. I worked hard to get into a house and out of an apartment.”

Berger said when she moved into the house near the river, she wasn’t expecting a flood similar to 2008.

Vinton resident Jeff Sojka, who experienced the 2008 Flood firsthand, said he’s prepared.

“We lost it all in 2008,” he said. “All we had was the shell of the house.”

After his 501 Riverside Drive residence was condemned in 2008, Sojka rebuilt and raised his house four feet, anchored down his porch steps and didn’t install a basement.

“I’m way more prepared than last time,” Sojka said. “The whole community is.”

Palo

Further downstream, Palo is preparing for the Cedar River to crest Monday morning, city officials say.

Palo City Council member Brian Beaty said the biggest concern was the sewage lift station south of town. Crews built an earthen dam Friday around the station, which was wiped out in 2008.

The city also was placing sandbags at the wastewater treatment plant, Palo Mayor Thomas Yock said.

“We’re sandbagging all around the sewer plant and building those barriers up,” Yock said. “You can’t afford to lose the sewer.”

Yock noted that Palo’s wastewater plant was protected by similar efforts during the 2008 Flood.

Beaty estimates it will affect up to 25 percent of town’s about 1,000 residents.

Palo residents near the river worked quickly to move items out and sandbag their homes.

Kristen Crable, 29, said she and her husband, Tim, were some of the only Linn Drive residents moving out their belongings. Most of her neighbors are only cleaning out their basements, she said.

Crable didn’t live in Palo in 2008, but seeing photos from the 2008 Flood convinced her to move things Friday out of their 306 Linn Drive residence.

“All you can do is get prepared for it,” she said.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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

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