JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa — As the Coralville Lake slowly continues to rise toward its projected peak, Johnson County Emergency Management officials said Sunday that this flood’s similarity to last year’s has made for a faster response.
Terrence Neuzil, lead public information officer for Johnson County Emergency Management, said when it came time to evacuate this year, “We knew exactly the neighborhoods to go to, exactly the neighborhoods to get out.”
Neuzil said flood mitigation efforts that have been completed in Coralville and the quick response from Iowa City and the University of Iowa in putting up temporary flood walls, sandbags and HESCO barriers allowed for a faster response to the threatening water levels at Coralville Lake.
“That allowed for the Army Corps of Engineers to release water faster,” Neuzil said. “That’s why the water levels have gone down so much faster.”
Projections Sunday morning showed Coralville Lake hitting a peak of 708.16 feet by Tuesday. Less than a week ago, it was projected to top the spillway for the third time in its history.
The half-inch of rain Saturday night had little effect on river levels, Neuzil said, and the Iowa River should stay near its current level until July 14, meaning Dubuque Street will remain under water throughout.
Homes that were evacuated will not be ready for residents to return to until at least July 16, possibly later, Neuzil said. He said once the water has receded, crews will need to clean the streets leading to those homes and then turn the electricity and gas back on before anyone returns.
“Our concern is with thunderstorms,” Neuzil said.
The National Weather Service is projecting rainfalls of 1 to 2 inches Sunday night, Monday and Tuesday.
Neuzil said the water should be manageable, but the creek systems remain an area to watch closely.
“The water just can’t push into the river,” he said of the creeks that are flowing much slower than the speed of water in the river. “It basically just hits a river wall.”
Officials are keeping a close eye on several creek systems, including Clear and Old Mans creeks, which can back up when they can’t empty into the river as quickly.
Neuzil said the goal is to continue lower water levels so if there is more rainfall, the creek system and local communities will be able to handle more water.
Flood walls and other flood mitigation efforts will remain for a while, Neuzil said. He said officials will begin to feel better once Coralville Lake is below 700 feet.
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