Cedar Rapids prepares for flooding

Photo by Adam Burke
Photo by Adam Burke

In news that brings back painful memories of the 2008 flood, officials announced that the Cedar River is expected to rise above flood stage Sunday and reach 24.1 feet Tuesday morning, impacting businesses and homes in Downtown Cedar Rapids.

Neighborhoods that would be impacted at that level include Time Check, Czech Village, New Bohemia and the core downtown area. For an idea of how high the water might get, at 24.2 feet the water would reach the bottom of the 1st Avenue bridge downtown, according to the National Weather Service.

In a news conference Thursday afternoon, city staff and officials spoke about the city’s efforts to prepare for flooding. City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said the city is mobilizing its resources to deal with the flood.

“We’re not saving a few dollars now, we’re making sure we have every resource that is necessary,” he said.

The National Weather Service in the Quad Cities issued a flood warning Thursday for Cedar Rapids and other areas of northeast Iowa including Waterloo and Dubuque. The Cedar, Iowa, Wapsipinicon and Mississippi River basins are expected to rise. The warning follows heavy rain in southern Minnesota and Wisconsin and northeast Iowa. More rain is also expected Friday and over the weekend.

Cedar Rapids is currently working on deploying pumps, plugging sewers and sandbagging and is evaluating where to set up temporary flood barriers called HESCO barriers, said Jen Winter, the city public works director. The city will be releasing information about public sandbagging areas soon, she said.

As the waters rise, impacted roads will be closed and traffic signals turned off. Winter warned drivers not to enter roadways with standing water.

Cedar Rapids property owners can see if their property will be impacted using the city’s flood stages map, which shows what parts of the city will be impacted at a 24-foot flood stage.

Cedar Rapids Fire Chief Mark English said the city’s operation center will go live Sunday morning, at which point they will examine if evacuations are needed. He asked that those who are asked to evacuate do so.

“That helps keep our people out of harms way to get somebody that should have evacuated earlier,” English said.

Businesses in impacted areas have already announced plans to close in preparation for the flooding.

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Pomeranz said the city learned a lot from the 2008 flood.

“Unfortunately, experience has given us better preparation. I think the public should be confident that the city and our partners will do everything we can to properly respond to this potential incident,” Pomerantz said.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said the city will take every precaution available.

“As you can see the forecast can change,” he said. “Just yesterday we were looking at 15 feet and now we’re looking at 24.1. But we have four days to get ready and now is the time to start.”

The city will be holding daily news conferences at 10 a.m. and information will be posted to the city’s website.

People interested in volunteering to help can sign up on the United Way of East Central Iowa’s website.

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