More Severe Weather on the way for Eastern Iowa

By Lee Hermiston, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Get ready for round two.

As Cedar Rapids and Eastern Iowa cleans up from one powerful storm, the National Weather Service says another one is one the way.

Citing information from the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., National Weather Service meteorologist Tim Gross said a strong storm is predicted to come through the area Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

“Damaging winds and large hail are the main threats,” Gross said. “We’re outlooked to have something similar happen later tonight.”

That something similar could be a foreboding notion for Eastern Iowans. Last night’s storm brought 2.84 inches of rain and 60 to 70 mph winds to Cedar Rapids. Those winds tore down trees, ripped the roof of a church school, flipped a trailer and caused other damage, particularly in the southwest quadrant.

Cedar Rapids public works maintenance manager Craig Hanson said the city was hit with two waves of storms Monday. The first wave hit around five and resulted in a couple of downed trees that were marked, but not immediately removed. The major damage came at 10 p.m. when the second wave it. Hanson said the storm started out in the Cedar Hills neighborhood and tracked along Wilson Avenue through Autumn Woods, Kingston Village, Young’s Hill and the Smoker’s Hill area, tearing down two-and-a-half foot wide trees in the cemetery on Sixth Street SW. The storm continued over the river and hit Otis Road at High and Memorial drives and did damage in Cedar Valley.

Young’s Hill saw the heaviest damage, Hanson said.

“There are limbs down or trees down at every other property, at least,” he said, adding the city has taken five dozen reports of tree damage, along with a dozen public trees.

City crews began cleaning up debris and getting downed trees out of the street at 11 a.m. and continued through the day Tuesday. The city’s forestry team was supplemented with workers from the streets and sewer programs, Hanson said.

“We have over 40 staff members clearing roads and clearing debris,” he said.

Although a downed tree took the river gauge out of commission Monday night, Hanson said the Cedar River is approaching five feet and expected to rise in the next few days. Looking north to Waterloo, Hanson said the Cedar is expected to crest Thursday at nine-and-a-half feet. That means Cedar Rapids can anticipate river levels to hit around eight-and-a-half feet on Saturday, resulting in some flooding around Robbins Lake and Manhattan Park.

“We’re talking crests of under action stage,” Hanson said. “That’s not a big deal.”

Helping the cause is vegetation slowing the flow of runoff to the river and high temperatures evaporating the water. The river forecasts are only based on the anticipated rainfall over the next 24 hours.

“We’re at roughly five feet of water in the river,” Hanson said. “It’s a long way between that and anything that goes wrong. With temperatures in the 80s, it’s going to evaporate a lot of water between now and then.”

Elsewhere in Eastern Iowa, a tornado was reported near Winthrop that was to be surveyed on Tuesday. Buchanan County Emergency Management coordinator Rick Wulfekuhle said the suspected tornado was sighted in a rural part of the county and damaged some outbuilding and trees, but no residences.

“We fared extremely well,” Wulfekuhle said.

Fayette County did not fare as well. Emergency management coordinator Michael Foland said the county sustained significant damage along 100th Street and Highway 56.

“We had several barns that were blown down, trees down across roadways, power lines,” Foland said. “We had some power outages. Residential damage, I believe, was pretty minimal.”

Foland said the Westgate fire chief reported damage in that community could hit $1 million, but those reports have not been verified.

Gross said golf ball-sized hail fell west of Anamosa and Ping-Pong ball-sized hail hit parts of Iowa City. Manchester and Anamosa both saw rain in excess of three inches.

The good news is that the rain had somewhere to go.

“The ground was very dry,” Gross said. “A lot of that water just soaked in. Now that we have that in the ground, if we have something similar occur in the next few days ... a lot of that water will be running off into the rivers and causing the rivers to rise.”

“Anything after today we’ll be watching for rises on the river,” he added.

There is a chance of storms both Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Gross said. Tuesday night into Wednesday morning had a 50 percent chance of rain. The chances for a storm Wednesday night into Thursday area at 60 percent. The storms will begin in north central Iowa and track east, Gross said.

“We’ll be watching that with very much interest,” he said. “It’s going to be an active pattern right now.”

Foland and other officials in the line of the storms all said they’ll be keeping an eye on the weather even as they focus on cleaning up from the storm.

“We are definitely keeping an eye out and preparing,” Foland said. “It sounds like we could have a repeat any night this week.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@sourcemedia.net

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