Crest Forecast Lowered for Cedar Rapids, Highest Levels Expected Sunday

A view of the Alliant Energy Building (left) and the Linn County Courthouse and the Third Avenue Bridge over the Cedar River taken from Riverfront Park on Friday, May 31, 2013, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The projected crest of the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids has been lowered by more than a foot this morning, a welcomed relief following several days of tense flood preparations.

New forecasts lowered the expected crest to 18.5 feet. The crest is expected in Cedar Rapids early Sunday.

“Seeing flood crest forecast move DOWN another foot is making Saturday morning stroll around Downtown Farmers Market even sweeter,” Doug Neumann, executive vice president of the Metro Economic Alliance, tweeted Saturday morning while at the city’s first downtown market of the year.

It was the second break in as many days, with the first on Friday when forecasted heavy rains stayed south of the region.

Cedar Rapids Public Works Maintenance Manager Craig Hanson said the city will scale back sandbag operations, but urged caution.

The sandbag location at 2nd Ave and 2nd St. SW will be the first to close today, and the location at C St. and Bowling St. SW will close second. The site in the New Bo area at 11th Ave and 3rd St. SE will remain open at this point, Hanson said.

The flooding threat for the New Bo area is “significantly lower”, Hanson said, but they will monitor the area until water levels decrease below 18 feet. In the Czech Village area, Hanson said they will be monitoring flooding until it’s below 13 to 15 feet.

While Hanson said he is happy the crest projection is much lower, he emphasized the threat is not gone. Hanson warned they may still have to close the Edgewood Road Bridge. The roadway alongside the bridge is susceptible to flooding at the 18.1-foot level, he said.

“We will have to keep doing this until the threat is totally gone,” he said. “It’s not over until it’s over.”

Once the river crests, Hanson said the lowest levels of protection will remain up around the city until the water is below 11 feet. The current National Weather Service projection for the 11-foot level is June 6.

After the river crests, Hanson said residents can begin returning sandbags to the three remote locations. However, he urged residents to be cautious.

“Make sure you get past the crest before you just start ripping off stuff,” he said.

Ultimately, Hanson said the lower projection is “positive” news for a city that has worked so hard to protect itself.

“It’s incredible the response of our public,” Hanson said of volunteers. “That is one of the key good things you can see from Cedar Rapids, is how they help each other. All you have to do is drive down the New Bo area and Czech Village area and you can see the outpouring of support.”

The downgraded crest will likely put it somewhere in the sixth or seventh highest crests on record. The sixth highest crest, at 18.6 feet, came in April 1933, while the seventh highest crest at 18.51 feet came in April 1965.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and other administrative officials will observe flooding Monday in Cedar Rapids and across eastern Iowa, his office announced Saturday. Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division Administrator Mark Schouten will start their tour in New Hartford before an aerial tour en route to Coralville Monday afternoon.

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