Public Safety

Flood warning: Cedar River expected to crest at 14.3 feet early next week

Weather service upgrades flood watch to warning for much of Eastern Iowa

FILE PHOTO: Sand Road SE, north of Highway 22, is closed due to flooding in Johnson County on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
FILE PHOTO: Sand Road SE, north of Highway 22, is closed due to flooding in Johnson County on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Update, 2:40 p.m., March 13:

On Wednesday, the National Weather Service updated the flood crestforecast to 14.3 feet on Tuesday morning.

CEDAR RAPIDS — As weather experts monitor a heavy storm system that is expected to move through the Midwest this week, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning Tuesday for much of Eastern Iowa, including Cedar Rapids.

Part of J Street SW closed on Wednesday

The current forecast flood stage is 15.5 feet, according to the weather service, and is expected to crest Monday, though that forecast level could rise.

Cedar Rapids Development Services Communications Coordinator Emily Breen, said the predicted water level is considered a “moderate flood stage” that should not have significant impacts to the general public.

According to the weather service, a “potent storm system” will move though the Midwest starting Tuesday night and bring with it “warmer temperatures and heavy rainfall.” Some areas could see more than an inch of rainfall from the storm.

“Since the ground is saturated and still frozen across much of the area, any heavy rain and snow melt will quickly run off into low lying areas and area waterways,” the weather service said. “This runoff will have the possibility of producing flooding.”

No flood warning is in effect for the Iowa River in the Iowa City area — a flood watch remains — though a warning is in effect for areas elsewhere along the river, including Marengo and Lone Tree.

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Breen said the predicted flood stage is typical of this time of year in Cedar Rapids and should cause little worry to residents.

“The flood stage that we are expected to reach later this week, is what we would consider pretty low impact. It’s something that has happened pretty much on an annual basis in Cedar Rapids for the past several years,” Breen said. “So, it’s safe to say (the city) is ready for it, and the public likely won’t see much of an impact other than the possibility of some closed roads and some plugging of underground storm drains.”

That said, Breen added the city will be watching river levels closely over the next several days, as well as keeping an eye on some of the city’s more vulnerable areas, namely the Czech Village District and along the river in Kingston Village, along First Street SW between 8th and 16th avenues.

Justin Koller, the city’s sewer operations manager, said the city will be rolling some protections out this week.

“We will be plugging storm sewers in the city’s low-lying areas — most of which are in the southwest quadrant — that are hard to access when the river level rises,” he said, adding that city forces will be working along the river on First Street SW on Wednesday or Thursday, as well as at River Park, to plug underground storm drains.

Additionally, he said, “We are watching the river flows and observing as the small tributaries in the city — such as Indian Creek and Prairie creek — and watching them for ice jams.”

Koller said it is unlikely that aboveground prevention measures will be needed.

Cedar Rapids Public Safety Spokesperson Greg Buelow recommended residents avoid areas that are prone to flooding as river levels rise.

Additionally, he said drivers should not attempt to drive over flooded roads, but instead should “turn around and go another way,” and parents should keep their children from playing in floodwaters or near culverts and storm drains.

Recreational activities and water sports on flooded waterways should also be avoided.

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“Even 6 inches of fast moving floodwater can knock you off your feet, and a depth of 2 feet is enough to float your car,” he said. “Never try to walk, swim or drive through such swift water.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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