High water gave Cedar Rapids, Palo a scare one year ago

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PALO, Iowa (KCRG TV9)- Exactly one year ago, the Cedar River put flood preparations to the test in Cedar Rapids and other communities with the second highest crest ever recorded.

Jenny Salyars stands on the deck of her still uncompleted new home. She is the only Palo resident still rebuilding after the flood of September 2016.

On September 27, 2016, the Cedar River hit almost 22 feet. Rainfall totals that September ranged between 12 and 15 inches in many parts of northeast Iowa. By contrast, this September Cedar Rapids has yet to reach one inch of rain for the whole month.

Communities impacted by the flooding have largely recovered from any damage. But there are a handful of exceptions.

It’s taken Jenny Salyars longer to recover from the September 2016 flooding in Palo because she had more flood-related issues that anyone else in that community.

Her home on 1st Street was the only one given a “red tag” and declared uninhabitable at the time by the city due to bulging foundation walls. Salyars says the foundation was braced and she got a temporary occupancy permit while building a new, elevated home right behind the old one.

And she says this time, she’s making sure it’s flood proof.

“We have garage doors facing the back of the house instead of the front like most homes. When the water comes up we’ll open up doors, let the water come in and when it recedes power wash everything,” she said.

Salyars says she’s still about a month away from moving in to her post-flood home.

In the NewBo district of southeast Cedar Rapids, both business owners and residents are comforted by the near completion of the Sinclair Levee that should protect the area in the future with only a minimal need for sand barriers.

And one thing that’s a bit surprising, on this one year anniversary, is the growth in the area continued despite the close call with high water.

Economist development leaders say the district saw a net gain of 30 new businesses in NewBo since last September.

Baby Time is one of the post-flood newcomers. Owner Kristen Mead says she moved here specifically because she saw neighbors determined to bounced back.

“I think that’s for me what it was. I love the spirit of the community down here and to be able to be a part of the rebuilding,” she said.

Business owners in Newbo say they remain wary of high water because it is a low-lying area. But a year after a second highest ever river crest, they feel more confident.