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Residents, leaders are rising to the flood's challenge

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Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman was talking about his police department Friday, but he could have been describing this entire flood-threatened region.

“Basically, it’s going to be all hands on deck,” Jerman said.

The National Weather Service on Friday predicted the Cedar River at Cedar Rapids would hit a 25.3-foot crest Monday through early Tuesday, the second-highest ever. Parts of downtown and core neighborhoods are preparing for water, including New Bohemia, Kingston Village, the Czech Village, Time Check on the northwest side and Cedar Lake. Eight years after the river climbed to its epic 31.12-foot crest, the city is responding again. But this time, the city’s experience is informing the fight.

“The city is ready,” said Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz. “We have the right plan in place.”

Plans are being executed, personnel are on the job and temporary flood control infrastructure is being put in place. Other communities have offered assistance. Crews are filling miles of flood control barriers with sand, with hopes of holding back the floodwaters.

But government can’t do it alone. Volunteers are needed. The good news is help already has arrived and is on the way, with scores of residents flocking to the flood zone to fill sandbags and help move belongings out of harm’s way.

There are many ways to help. Current sandbagging stations are at Hawkeye Downs and 16th Avenue/Williams Blvd. (the former Kmart location). Volunteers are asked to bring a shovel.

The United Way of East Central Iowa is coordinating other volunteer efforts, with volunteer signup uweci.org. If you need volunteers, call the United Way’s 211 line.

A list of numerous businesses, institutions and organizations in need of volunteer help can be found on our website at thegazette.com. The city of Cedar Rapids website, cedar-rapids.org, is another source of updated flood information.

As we learned so well in 2008, communication is vital to both flood response and recovery. So far, it’s a lesson local government leaders appear to have learned well. There’s been no shortage of information from city leaders and critical departments.

Bracing for prospect of major flooding is heartbreaking. But we’re heartened by the response of residents and their leaders. As the river rises yet again, all hands are on deck.

• Comments: (319) 398-8469; editorial@thegazette.com

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