Residents Living in Flood-prone Areas Remain Cautiously Optimistic

By Hayley Bruce, Reporter

Friends and family of Brianna Becicka, Christine Fachman, Ciara Ladroma, and Lindsey Lee move their belongings out of the home they rent near the corner or Manor Drive and Normandy Drive Thursday, May 30, 2013 near the Iowa River in Iowa City. All four of the friends, who also work together at the Mayors Youth Empowerment Program, are in North Carolina visiting the aunt of one of the women, used social media as well as phone calls to mobilize their friends and family to save their belongings from the impending flood. (Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Aaron Hepker

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Residents located south of the Coralville Reservoir are remaining cautiously optimistic about flooding conditions after a mostly-sunny afternoon in Iowa City on Friday.

Though many people living in some of Iowa City's lowest-lying areas said they had made preparations to leave at any time, most said they trusted city officials and felt confident that the flooding in their neighborhoods won't be comparable to that in 2008.

Trenton Dickel, who lives along the 800 block of Normandy Drive that was closed due to flooding, said he's moved a few essentials out of the house, but plans to wait things out.

"We didn't live here in '08 so I'm not as scarred as a lot of the rest of the neighbors," Dickel said, adding floodwaters didn't reach the first floor of his home during the flood in 1993. "I guess I'm putting my faith completely in what the experts are saying, you know?"

Because the Iowa river basin did not get as much rain as expected on Thursday, the Army Corps of Engineers now estimates that water levels will hit the spillway at the reservoir, which is at an elevation of 712 feet, on June 4. The elevation is expected to peak on June 8 at 712.1 feet above sea level, which decreased from Thursday's prediction of 713.5. The National Weather Service is forecasting 1/4 to 1/2 inches of rain across the Iowa River Basin this afternoon and evening.

The Corps will also continue to increase outflows at the reservoir throughout the weekend, increasing outflows from 17,000 cubic feet per second Friday to the projected peak of 20,500 cfs by June 9.

As of Friday evening, the officials with the city said they had initiated contact with residents and businesses at Parkview Terrace, Taft Speedway, Cole and Thatcher Trailer Courts, South Gilbert and Stevens Drive, Rockyshore Drive and Highway 6 to provide information about possible flooding. Mandatory evacuations had not been issued in those areas Friday night, but could be initiated in the near future. Rick Fosse, public works director for Iowa City, said Friday afternoon that Rockyshore Drive will likely be the next road to close early to mid next week.

Though Fosse said the city does not anticipate it will need to close Foster Road, residents and a church in that area were preparing for the worst and hoping for the best Friday afternoon.

Jeff Gilmore, senior pastor at Parkview Church on Foster Drive, said they were in the process of building a berm — which will reach to the bottom of the church's windows — to shield their building from floodwaters. After the church was devastated in 2008, Gilmore said they felt they needed to do 'due diligence" just in case the weather ends up being more severe than they anticipate.

"We're feeling pretty good," Gilmore said as he stood in the parking lot watching the process. "Depending on the parking lot we might be out for a few weeks, but maybe not, we might be okay. We are hoping we will be able to have services, we just need to wait and see — we'd rather be safe than sorry."

A block away, residents of the Idyllwild Condominium complex — which was swamped by the flood in 2008 — were also making preparations.

Nancy Haggerty, a resident of the Idyllwild Complex, said she was preparing by cleaning out her freezer and moving most of her things to the second floor of her condo. Even though she said she was happy to hear better forecasts this morning, she said she'll be a little bit nervous going into the weekend because everyone's in limbo until it's clear how much rain the area will get. She's lived in the complex since 1997.

"Yes, (we're nervous)," Haggerty said. "I guess it's because we lived here in 2008, and we know how devastating it can be."

Sally Cline, president of the Idyllwild Condominium Owners Association, said the complex was planning to put their 100-year flood plan into place, which includes sandbagging and using concrete blocks to raise furniture off the ground in lower-lying areas of the complex.

Though some of the ponds in the complex had risen Friday afternoon, due increased outflow from the Iowa River, which they are connected to, Cline said residents of the area are well-prepared following 2008. Though she didn't anticipate severe flooding, she said the complex has a few low-lying utility boxes that could be at risk of being shut off if the waters rise.

"You know, here's the deal, we lived through it in '08 and I woke up this morning and said I don't think I can do this again, so I felt better saying that but the reality is, what are you going to do?," Cline said. "So we're here and the city is more proactive, we are more proactive, so it's all good. Everybody is better-informed than they were five years ago and that's huge."

Last fall, Iowa City chose not to build a levee along Taft Speedway, which was supposed to protect the complex. Though Cline said the association has been working with the city to consider other flood mitigation options, like closing off pipes that lead from the river to the complex's ponds, things haven't moved forward just yet.

"It's a little frustrating when so much has happened in Coralville and Coralville has been so proactive," Cline said. "We're just not seeing it or feeling it from the Iowa City council."

Cline said the association is telling residents to do what they need to do in order to feel prepared.

"We're doing what we can as an association and encouraging people that they need to just do what they need to do, whether that's moving out or staying, of course," Cline said.

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