Storms slam Eastern Iowa

Parts of Cedar Rapids receive up to 5 inches of rain


This was not how Steve Long planned to spend his Monday.

Armed with a rake, Long pulled mounds of thick brown mud into the street in front of his home where a city of Cedar Rapids worker was scooping the muck into a dump truck. A massive rainstorm left two to three feet of mud, rock and water on Fox Meadow Drive SE.

“There’s just mud everywhere,” Long said.

Less than a week after the Cedar River crested at Cedar Rapids, a period of heavy rainfall and another anticipated strong storm is expected to bring the river up over 17 feet or well into major flood stage. According to the National Weather Service, the river is projected to hit 17.5 feet between July 3 and 4.

Gov. Terry Branstad issued a disaster proclamation for Linn, Jones, Cedar, Adair and Guthrie counties in Iowa following the second band of powerful storms.

The first round of rain, which hit Sunday morning and into Monday night, dropped two to five inches of rain on the city and caused widespread flash flooding.

“This resulted in heavy inundations of several streets and it caused street flooding,” said public works maintenance manager Craig Hanson.

Numerous streets remain closed throughout the city during the day. As of Monday afternoon, Cedar Rapids officials said they handled more than 300 calls for service related to flooding, and conducted more than 20 rescues in fast-moving water for motorists who were stranded in their vehicles.

Elsewhere in Linn County, Sheriff Brian Gardner said a man was found dead underneath a collapsed building in Fairfax on Monday afternoon.

Authorities went to 90 W. Cemetery Rd. after a report of a building blown down by high winds and people trapped inside.

One person had escaped the debris with non-life threatening injuries, according to a release from the Linn County Sheriff’s Office. The second victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Authorities withheld the names of those involved until family members were notified.

Roads flooded

Highway 1 just south of North Washington was closed due to damage received overnight Sunday. Traffic was diverted from Highway 151 to Highway 13 south to Highway 30 east to Mount Vernon and back on Highway 1, according to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.

Iowa Department of Transportation District 6 Transportation Planner Cathy Cutler said a culvert at mile post 110.1 on Highway 1 north of Mount Vernon was inundated with water, which undermined the pavement and caused a collapse of both lanes. While the highway is closed, the good news was a local contractor who works with the DOT was nearby, and Cutler was hopeful they could get the contractor over to the damaged roadway quickly.

“I would say this week, if everything goes smoothly and the weather cooperates,” Cutler said. “We consider this an emergency situation and expedite the contracts.”

Once work on Highway 1 begins, Cutler said it should be complete in about two weeks.

Less clear is the timeline for Highway 151 north of Fairfax at Prairie Creek Bridge (Cemetery Road). Cutler said a 15-foot diameter hole opened up on the bridge approach as a semi and tractor-trailer drove over, causing damage to the truck and back injuries to the driver.

Cutler said a bridge inspector team from Ames is assessing the bridge.

“We just don’t know the extent of that damage,” Cutler said.

The approaches to Springville Road Bridge over Abbe Creek north of Mount Vernon also are badly damaged, according to Linn County Engineer Steve Gannon.

Mark Davis, spokesman for the Union Pacific Railroad, said the lines through Cedar Rapids suffered washouts in three locations, though he did not have specific addresses. One washout was 20 feet long and two to three feet deep; the second was 50 feet long and 20 feet deep; and the third area was 90 feet long and 20 feet deep.

Davis said large rock will be brought into those areas to repair the washouts, and the lines should be reopened by noon Tuesday.

Trains are being detoured to other Union Pacific lines or over the Burlington Northern, Iowa Interstate or Norfolk Southern lines.


Benton County Emergency Management Coordinator Scott Hansen reported “widespread damage” throughout the county. The county avoided wind damage from the overnight storm but was hit with flash flooding.

More damage came with the Monday afternoon storms, Benton County’s Hansen said. Homes were damaged in Urbana, trees and power lines were downed in Mount Auburn, and Newhall, Norway and Atikins saw damage to various structures, trees and power lines, he added.

“It’s pretty much countywide,” he said.

Hanson said sewer crews were inspecting pipes, street crews were cleaning debris from roadways and other crews reviewed reports of downed trees. Hanson said the massive rainfall left the sewer lines overcapacity and ground water infiltrated the sewer lines in other areas.

“Right now, the water table is higher because we had so much rain,” he said. “The pipes were running full. If wasn’t that there were any blockages, they were just running full.”

‘A waterfall’

In the Sun Valley neighborhood in Cedar Rapids, where Steve Long lives, Hanson said water came rushing down Cottage Grove Avenue SE, through Deepwood Court and flooded Fox Meadow Drive with two to three feet of mud, rock and water. The water also flowed south down Sunland Court and Cottage Grove Parkway, causing high water levels in that area.

“It flooded the backyards up to five to six feet deep,” Hanson said.

Jim Sines, a member of the Sun Valley neighborhood, said the neighborhood has flooded in the past when Indian Creek has breached its banks. However, in this situation, debris blocked stormwater intakes, causing the water to flow into the neighborhood.

“Basically it became a waterfall behind one of the homes and cascaded all of this water behind all the homes,” Sines said.

Elsewhere, the New Bohemia neighborhood had water up to its curb line but water pumps were installed in that area in response to Cedar River flooding earlier this month. Similarly, A Street SW by 21st Avenue saw flooding mitigated by water pumps.

Hanson also reported mudslides on Old River Road near the old Hennessey Quarry in the 4300 block and in Otis Road SE in the area of the 4400 block. Crews were evaluating asphalt street failures on Washington and Grande avenues and Forest Drive SE, a street buckle at Edgewood Drive and H Avenue and a sinkhole on Oakland Road at G Avenue.

Based on the Iowa Storm Water Manual, Hanson said the Sunday night-Monday morning event was roughly a five-year event. By comparison, the Flood of 2008 was a 500-year event and the Flood of 1993 was a 100-year event.

“Right now, the forecast is 12.9 feet on Thursday and Friday,” Hanson said, noting that prediction only considers potential rainfall over the next 24 hours. “The river is coming back up.”

Looking forward, Tom Philip, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the Quad Cities, said there is a chance for some isolated showers during the afternoon on Tuesday and Wednesday, but no heavy rain is expected for the rest of the week.

“I think it’s going to quiet down a little bit, so that’s the good news ...,” Philips said Monday evening, adding there would likely be less than a tenth of an inch over all three river basins — the Cedar, Iowa, and Wapsipinicon — in the area over the next few days.

“I’m not really seeing much in the way of any heavy rain events anymore.”

Philip said the next chance of storms comes in Saturday afternoon, with a 30 to 40 percent chance throughout the weekend into Monday.

Reporters Hayley Bruce and Max Walker contributed to this story.