VINTON, Iowa- The city of Vinton decided to err on the side of caution by erecting flood barriers around the fire station and municipal utility plant on Thursday.
John Watson, Vinton mayor, said city workers and officials met Thursday morning to debate whether or not a flood barrier and sandbagging was needed. He said the expected crest of the Cedar River might fall just short of the level where water would flood some streets and get into important public buildings near the river.
But the mayor said rather than take a chance, he called for volunteers to help city workers install HESCO barriers for the first time. The city obtained the barriers after the flood of 2008. The mayor said the city would put up 400 of the sand-filled barriers as a first line of defense against high water.
"For safety's sake, we're going ahead and starting our HESCO barrier and that's our first line of defense for the north side of our electric plant and the fire station," the mayor said.
City workers had begun filling sandbags earlier in the day before the decision was made to put up the barriers. The city issued a call for volunteers to help with the installation.
Dozens of people, including college and high school students, heeded the call. While city crews used heavy equipment to dump sand in the HESCO barriers, the volunteers jumped inside the large canvass bags to tamp the sand down. Several said the work was a lot easier than hauling the more typical sandbags.
Sydney Walker, a college student home for summer, said "I didn't really know what I was expecting...it's not that bad."
Tanner Spies, a high school senior who just graduated, was also by the river volunteering.
"I thought we were going to be filling sandbags instead of stomping on them. But I like this a lot better," Spies said.
The mayor said the precautions might not be needed, but he'd rather make the effort now before it was a true emergency.
In addition to erecting a flood barrier near downtown, the city of Vinton also made sand and bags available to residents who wanted to protect their own property.