Experts analyze Cedar River levels

Published: Sep. 21, 2017 at 7:45 PM CDT
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Some near the Cedar River may be thinking the river levels look low, especially in comparison to this time last year.

In 2016, the Cedar River flooded cities throughout Eastern Iowa. The river crested in Cedar Rapids at about 22 feet.

Right now in Cedar Rapids, the Cedar River is hovering around 3.5 feet.

Although this may seem low, an expert with the Iowa Flood Center says this is well within the normal range, especially for this time of year. Ricardo Mantilla says river levels, especially along the Cedar River water basin, can quickly change.

"A good number to have in our minds that things can change in two weeks for the city of Cedar Rapids. Even though the rivers are low right now, if we were going to get a couple of weeks of intense precipitation or storms, that can change the dynamic of what we can see in the river,” Mantilla said.

Mantilla says 2008 and 2016 are both good examples of how dramatically river levels can change.

Mantilla says a big difference between river levels this year compared to last is the groundwater saturation.

This year the ground is very dry. If the area does receive a few storms, the ground could easily absorb the water, and not lead to river levels quickly rising. That means the flood risk this fall is extremely low.

The Iowa Flood Center says it now can test data and models on the 2016 flood instead of just the 2008 flood. Researchers there say this will lead to a better understanding of how water moves through the region's landscape.