CEDAR RAPIDS — As the 10-year anniversary of the record-breaking crest of the Cedar River — and the massive power outage that came with it — approaches, those who make sure area homes and businesses have power say things are much different now.
Officials with Alliant Energy and ITC Midwest on Monday held a media availability event at Alliant’s Downtown Industrial Substation, near the corner of C Avenue NE and Fourth Street NE, to talk about how the devastating flood of 2008 helped shape the city’s current infrastructure.
Should the Cedar River see a repeat of the more than 31-foot crest that occurred in 2008, the substation — along with Alliant’s River Run Substation on 10th Street SE — would remain dry.
“Everything that is providing all the energy you need for your business and your life is on ground that was not affected by the flood of 2008,” Alliant spokesman Mike Wagner said. “I think it gives you confidence knowing that it’s one less thing that you’re going to have to worry about if there is a disaster.”
In 2008, flooding inundated the city’s Sixth Street and Prairie Creek generation stations, causing power outages to as many as 30,000 people, Wagner said.
Tom Petersen, director of public affairs with ITC Midwest, said ITC — which manages the city’s utility lines — had power restored to most substations within about three days of the initial outage. Customers farther down the line may have experienced longer outages.
That was done by bringing in more than 30 contractors and establishing a temporary substation near Mount Vernon Road, Petersen said.
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“It was incredibly significant and unprecedented. We’ve never had situation where we lost both transmission substations, in addition to the damage the Alliant system suffered,” Petersen recalled.
In addition, flooding up and down the Iowa River and Cedar River put several communities and customers in need of restored power.
“We were experiencing high water all over Eastern Iowa,” Petersen said. “By far, Cedar Rapids was the biggest impact on our system.”
Now, 10 years later, Petersen and Wagner noted the major differences to not just the generation stations and substations, but the power grid itself — which doesn’t just protect residents from future power outages, but provides a sturdier backbone to the community as a whole.
“The resulting system is so much stronger, so much more reliable and has a larger capacity so as the city continues to grow, it’s prepared for it,” Petersen said.
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