Government

Latest Cedar Rapids flood prediction calls for Sunday crest

Forecasters see a 17-foot river crest; city prepares for 18 feet

A truck drives out of high water Wednesday and around a concrete culvert placed over a sewer drain along Ellis Boulevard NW near 16th Street NW. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
A truck drives out of high water Wednesday and around a concrete culvert placed over a sewer drain along Ellis Boulevard NW near 16th Street NW. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
/

CEDAR RAPIDS — The predicted crest for the Cedar River rose again Wednesday, but city officials, merchants and residents mainly were standing pat after completing initial flood precautions since the threat emerged Tuesday.

“As long as it is under 20 feet, I don’t feel like we have too much to be concerned about,” said Darci Bunting, general manager of Kickstand, a bar near the 16th Avenue Bridge in NewBo at 203 16th Ave. SE. “But if it changes and goes beyond the crest prediction, we will come up with a plan we can implement quickly.”

The city executed its flood protection plan for a river level reaching 18 feet, said Public Works Director Jen Winter.

Tuesday, officials were expecting a crest of 16.5 feet on Thursday. By Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service had revised its prediction to a crest of 17 feet Sunday. Anything above 16 feet is considered major flood stage.

“While this is an increase in the elevation of 16.5 that we were working with yesterday, the crest has come a few days later, so this does give us additional time to monitor the situation and to adequately prepare,” Winter said.

A river level of 18 feet is a point at which roads and parks near the river flood and the underground storm sewer system is threatened. Gates and pumps installed over the past year are designed to prevent underground storm sewer flooding, although this would be the most serious test so far.

More impactful flooding affecting homes and businesses occurs as the river rises above 20 feet.

For perspective, the 2016 flood crested at 21.95 feet and the limited damage mainly was caused through the underground storm sewer system. The 2008 flood crested at 31.12 feet and caused $5.4 billion in damage and loss and impacted 1,126 city blocks.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

David Sheets, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Davenport, said the rain coupled with saturated ground is a concern.

“Our biggest concern is what’s happening right now,” Sheets said Wednesday. “We have a flash flood warning in (the Cedar Rapids area) due to all the rain that’s fallen. And there still is a lot of rain heading toward the Cedar Rapids area that is expected to continue over the next several hours and possibly into the evening.”

City officials Wednesday expanded the list of closed roads and parks. Gates have closed off to the storm sewer system to prevent backups. Storm inlets and manhole covers have been plugged, and temporary berms and sand wall barriers have been erected in some low-lying areas, such as near the Mott Lofts building on the west bank of the river.

“Everyone is hanging tight, keeping close tabs with city people,” said B.J. Hobart, who owns Mott Lofts, which includes living units. “Unfortunately, this is not our first rodeo.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds said Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management is touching base with emergency managers across the state, and Cedar Rapids “did a great job of mitigating what could have been another potential disaster” in 2016.

“So, we learn from each experience that we have and I think we continue to get a little bit better,” she said.

Several temporary and permanent water pumps are now operating and pumping water back into the river, Winter said.

A little water entered the lower level of City Hall, which sits on the river, prompting exercise equipment to be relocated. Boards also were placed to seal off the entrances to conference rooms on the lower level.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

Winter said city officials are in close communication with the weather service and contractors, and resources are ready to deploy quickly if the river level prediction increases.

The city has fielded inquiries about sandbagging efforts, but at this point no stations are being set up, Winter said.

“We are confident we can quickly increase this level of protection if it becomes necessary to do so,” Winter said. “But I do feel we are in very good shape with the level of protection we have in place.”

The McGrath Amphitheatre has been closed, prompting the Temptations and The Four Tops performances Friday to be canceled.

The opening of trails at Mount Trashmore has been postponed. Saturday’s Dash to Bash Epilepsy Trashmore 5K run was moved to Sept. 15.

Linda Seger, a longtime resident who survived the 2008 and 2016 floods in the Time Check neighborhood, said neighbors are “not panicking” but this is a reminder her neighborhood needs permanent flood protection.

“This is a good wake-up call again,” she said. “We have to do flood protection on the west side. This is where it all comes into the city. This is where we have to channel it and divert it.”

Scott Kruger, executive director of the NewBo City Market, said people he’s spoke with in the district are watching the river levels with a “nervous optimism” and hoping the recently installed Sinclair levee works as advertised.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

He said he’s confident in and grateful for the steps the city has taken, “but the nerves are going to be there until the river starts to go down.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

Kat Russell and Rod Boshart of The Gazette contributed.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.