CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar River in Cedar Rapids is projected to reach major flood stage on Thursday after heavy weekend rains, prompting city crews to begin implementing flood protection protocols.
With more rain in the forecast later this week and remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon expected to deposit in the Midwest, the river crest could continue to rise.
“It’s a moving target,” said Jessica Brooks, service hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Davenport.
The predicted crest in downtown Cedar Rapids has been increasing for a couple of days and this morning was again revised upward to 16.5 feet — 16 feet is considered major flood stage here — around midday Thursday. The river is forecast to hover around major flood stage for three days.
The Cedar River level was at 12.46 feet this morning — minor flood stage begins at 12 feet — was forecast to reach moderate flood stage — 14 feet — on Tuesday evening, and reach major flood stage late Wednesday. In addition to a flood warning “until further notice,” Cedar Rapids is also under a flash flood watch from this afternoon until Wednesday evening, according to the National Weather Service.
Storms could “contain torrential rainfall and could produce rainfall rates in excess of one to two inches per hour,” according to the flash flood advisory.
“We are in a very wet pattern right now,” Brooks said. “While we are dry today, we are looking at daily chances of rain through much of the next week and with the pattern pulling in lots of moisture from the Gulf.”
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River level forecasts are based on gauge monitors from the National Weather Service. The forecast takes into account past precipitation and precipitation amounts expected approximately 24 hours into the future. Forecasters hesitate to predict river levels beyond 24 hours because of the uncertainty of where rain will fall, Brooks said.
Other river basins are also at risk of flooding.
The Wapsipinicon River in Anamosa was at minor flood stage — 14.42 feet — on Tuesday morning and is forecast to approach major flood stage — 21.4 feet — on Thursday evening. The Iowa River in Marengo was on the brink of flood stage on Wednesday morning — 18.47 feet — and predicted crest at 19.3 feet on Thursday morning. Flood gauges do not predict flooding downstream in Iowa City,
Upstream in Waterloo, the crest is expected to be 16.7 feet, which is minor flood stage, on Friday.
Cedar Rapids public works crews have begun preparing for moderate stage river levels. This includes plugging storm sewer drains, deploying pumps, closure of low-lying roads and parks facilities along the river and harbor, and placing concrete cylinders over low-lying stormwater inlets to prevent backflow from the river, according to a city news release.
Ellis Harbor boat launch will be closed at 8 p.m., today.
In Cedar Rapids, at 15.8 feet, water affects Osborn Park, low portions of C Street SW near Prairie Creek, the parks along the river between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave, as well as low sections of Old River Road SW.
As rain hits the region, the river level projection will adjust accordingly.
Current road closures related to flood response activity include:
— A Street and 21 Ave SW
— Otis Road SW
— Ellis Road west of Edgewood Road
— Old River Rd SW
— Partial closure of 1st St NW between Penn and E Ave NW
— Robbins Lake Park
— The Ellis Harbor boat launch
— Jones Golf Course back nine holes are closed
— Manhattan Park Pavilion
— Recreational trail (Prairie Creek to 16th Avenue SW)
— Softball Hall of Fame at Ellis Park
Stick with The Gazette for updates on the Cedar River and potential flooding throughout the week.