With river rising, city begins flood preparations

Cedar predicted to hit moderate flood stage next week

By Lee Hermiston, The Gazette

The Cedar River at Cedar Rapids is expected to hit 14.7 feet on Tuesday, prompting city officials to start making flood preparations.

Public works maintenance manager Craig Hanson said a number of actions were taking place throughout the day Thursday. The water department has begun to make adjustments on the dam, opening the gates as the river levels approach 10 feet. The river was at 6 feet at 11 a.m. Thursday, up .63 feet from 24 hours earlier.

A river height of 14.7 feet — considered moderate flood stage — will manifest itself in different ways throughout the city. Hanson said portions of Otis Road will close and Manhattan Park by Robbins Lake will be flooded. A closure may be necessary at the 4700 block of Ellis Boulevard and water will be lapping at the edge of Old River Road SW.

The public works department is preparing machinery and dispatching equipment to flood-prone areas of the city.

“We are making the sandbagging machine ready and verifying its operability,” Hanson said. “We are starting to move pumps to areas as necessary.”

Hanson said a trailer of traffic control devices has been moved to Penn Avenue NW between First Street and Ellis Boulevard. Storm pipe plugs have been moved to one of the department’s temporary buildings at I Avenue and First Street NW.

If the river continues to rise as expected, Hanson said the city will begin to move concrete barrels and cones to protect storm sewers. City employees also will install storm sewer plugs in vulnerable areas on Saturday, if necessary.

The city’s incident management team — made of senior leadership in various city departments — have been notified of all these actions, Hanson said.

“We are taking proactive measures as necessary to be ready to respond,” he said. “If (the river) goes go up, we’ll be ready.”

The projection for Tuesday is based on expected rainfall in the Cedar River watershed over the next 24 hours. How much rain falls — or doesn’t fall — in the next several days will continue to influence that projection.

“Right now, there is heavy rain in the upper Cedar River watershed,” Hanson said around 11 a.m. “We’ll see how that continues.”

Public Safety spokesman Greg Buelow said the city’s preparations show the necessity of not getting complacent in the face of rising waters.

“Mother Nature can throw you a curve,” Buelow said. “Obviously, (predicted river levels) can change with more substantial rainfall in this area or further north. The city ... needs to be cautious.”

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

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