One Week After Ice Jam: City & Residents React to Flood Response

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Ice chunks big enough to cover park benches along the banks of the Cedar River still sit as a reminder that it's just the beginning of the flooding season.

It's been a week since ice chunks started clogging the Cedar River. Monday night city leaders started noticing the jam on the city's northwest side. Water started coming up through storm sewer drains, filling streets. Wet soil created a mess in about seven or eight basements.

Now, the city is assessing its actions while some are still cleaning up a mess.

"I'd say the water level was at least up to here," Brandy Graham, flooding victim, said as she pointed to an area about a foot high. Graham is now starting to see mold where water filled her basement.

"Just the exhaustion of cleaning it up, I can't even put a dollar amount on it," Graham said.

The pile of her belongings is growing in the dumpster outside of her home. After living through the 2008 flood, she said she's on edge.

"I slept in my living room for a week, because I was scared that the water was -- my pump was going to stop working or somebody wasn't going to notify us in time, if we were in danger," Graham said.

Now the city is hearing from the public about their response to the situation. Some thoughts are positive and some are negative. The city said it worked fast, but the flooding happened quickly.

"In the case of ice jams, you have no time or minimal time to respond," Public Works Maintenance Manager Craig Hanson said.

Hanson is the first to say that responding to a flooding situation isn't an exact science. His team is already making changes because of lessons learned.

"Our improvements include more valves, more training; we'll make sure our procedures are updated for any of the things we found during the event," Hanson said.

The valves he mentioned are a big step in the city's protection plan. Adding more to the city's storm sewer system is part of the overall strategy.

"[The flow check valve] lets water out when it's raining and when there's water pressure coming from the river, it shuts itself [off]," Hanson said.

As Graham, however, looked around at her damaged basement, she said the city's actions were not enough.

"It's frustrating, because they are not jumping to how fast they need to respond to us," Graham said.

Mayor Corbett said thankfully there was no wide-spread damage during the latest flooding situation. He said the best solution for everyone is to work toward long-term flood protection on both sides of the river.

As for the ice chunks along the river, they'll sit here until they melt and will serve as a constant reminder that eastern Iowa is just at the beginning of the flooding season.
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