Cedar Rapids is taking another step toward flood recovery, with city leaders announcing the flood evacuation area would open at noon tomorrow for what City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said are, “flood-related recovery activities.” They’re asking people who don’t have homes or businesses in the area to stay away to allow work to be done as easily as possible.
The Cedar River level continues to drop after cresting at about 10 feet above flood stage on Tuesday. Late this morning, the river level was still at about 6.5 feet above flood stage, and expected to reach flood stage sometime late Saturday.
One of the big jobs ahead for the city is deconstructing nearly 10 miles of temporary flood barriers and removing about 250,000 sandbags from homes and businesses. Pomeranz says just as volunteers were critical to the work of preparing for the flood, they’ll be equally important to assist with cleanup.
“It took a lot of effort for place [the sandbags], and they’ll take a lot of effort to remove,” said Pomeranz.
People who want to volunteer to assist with cleanup can sign up online.
City Public Works Director Jen Winter reminds residents that as of Thursday morning, the river was still three feet above the level considered a “major flood” stage, and roughly equal to the city’s 1993 flood level. She says the city is still running a number of pumps to remove water that has seeped through the barriers or filling storm sewers, and that work will affect the ability to move freely through the current evacuation zone, even after it reopens tomorrow.
The city is reminding home and business owners that they need to have licensed contractors doing flood repair work, especially work involving gas or electrical equipment. The city residents may call 319-286-5529 to verify whether a particular contactor is licensed to work in Iowa or not. Flood permits are needed for repair work, and the city says it will waive the fees for those permits.
In his remarks this morning, Mayor Ron Corbett singled out Public Works Director Jen Winters for her leadership during the past week, and her department’s work in preparing for the flood and monitoring the barriers during the most critical period of high water.
“You are a rock star,” the mayor said after asking Winter to stand at this morning’s flood briefing.
Mayor Corbett also made an appeal to large businesses in the city not to lose faith in Cedar Rapids, and invest in its future.
“Stand with us to build Cedar Rapids,” he said, adding that such businesses are critical for the jobs they provide the community.
The mayor also urged local residents to act as an economic stimulus by pledging to visit local retailers or restaurants at least 10 times over the next month, pointing out that many lost a week’s worth of business because of the flood. Corbett urged members of the area’s cycling community to go further, and visit local shops and businesses 15 times over the next month. Pointing out the miles of bike lanes and trails the city has built, Corbett said, “We’ve done a lot for you,” and asked that the favor be returned.
As of this morning, I-380 is still the only way to cross the Cedar River. The city says downtown bridges may open on Friday.
Cedar Rapids Transit will resume service on Saturday.