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Vinton, Palo residents weather rising Cedar River

Plan developed after 2008 keeps power plant running

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VINTON — Debbie Ducharme stood in the driveway of her Third Avenue home in Vinton, watching as five water pumps rumbled from the basement.

The Cedar River crested in Vinton at 21.8 feet at about 8:30 a.m. Monday and at about noon, Ducharme’s pumps were keeping up.

Ducharme, who took measures to elevate the house after the 2008 flood, was confident she had escaped the worst of the flood, but her face was weary.

“I think we’ve probably got it, hopefully. As long as the pumps keep going,” she said.

Ducharme’s story was similar to many others in Vinton — a community prepared this time.

In 2008 the town of about 5,000 people lost its power plant, with some residents without electricity for about 12 days. This time, HESCO barriers — stacked eight feet high in some places — surrounded the municipal plant. Power was still on Monday, as water levels began dropping.

“Everything is working just like it should,” Vinton Mayor John Watson said.

Watson credited that to a well-developed plan — established after the 2008 flood — and an impressive outpouring of help from city staff and volunteers.

“We had an amazing group,” he said.

Downstream, in Palo, the Cedar River had reached about 17.7 feet at 3 p.m.

Again, residents were growing tired.

Jay Patters, on Thompson Drive, was just a few houses removed from standing water, which closed down the nearby Linn Drive. Sump pumps were running up and down the street.

Patters went through the 2008 flood and rebuilt his house after it sat in more than two feet of water that year.

However, Patters said he’s had enough this time.

“I think it’s harder on my wife and I’m sure our time is limited out here, because of the stress of, ‘Is it going to come? Is it not going to come?’,” he said. “We’re going to do what we have to do to put the place back together, get the best price we can out of it, and move on.”

Patters said he had temporarily relocated to a camper uphill, but other residents on the street had no plans of evacuating, despite requests from the city to do so.

Just a few doors down from Patters, Paula Gunter’s sump pump hadn’t yet been needed.

Gunter, who was on the Palo City Council during the 2008 flood, said she has no plans of leaving.

“I’m not leaving until the sheriff comes guns a-blazing or when the water’s slapping my tires,” she said.

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

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