Cedar Rapids Prepares For Flood; Other Communities Expect River Crests Soon

Sep 23, 2016

The Cedar River in downtown Cedar Rapids is expected to crest Monday at 24 feet. That’s seven feet lower than in 2008 when floodwaters ravaged the city’s downtown. Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett says that forecast could change.

“We’re at the mercy of the river, we’ll be able do an adequate job of keeping most of the water in the banks of the river at 22 feet, so 24 is really go to be challenging for us and we just hope it doesn’t get any worse,” he says.

Corbett says the city has protected its water and wastewater treatment systems as well as its electrical grids. At this point, more than more than 1,300 houses and 385 commercial structures will be impacted by the floodwaters.

The city is supplying sandbagging materials free of charge at stations set up near the New Bo market and Ellis Park pavilion. Corbett says residents and business owners in the flood areas need to start acting now.

“Some of those plans may be to evacuate,” he says. “Some of those plans may be to move stuff to second and third floor or some of that will be sandbagging. So we’re really telling people to take advantage of these three days that we have before the crest.”

Corbett says the 2008 flood was a learning experience and the city has protected its water and wastewater treatment systems as well as its electrical grids.

Meanwhile, the Shell Rock River at Shell Rock is expected to crest at 20.5 feet sometime tomorrow. That would exceed the record of 20.4 set in 2008. 

The river has crested upstream in both Greene and Clarksville. The level in Clarksville hit 23.3 feet. The National Weather Service considers levels over 20 feet to be "major flooding." Gov. Terry Branstad has declared Butler County a disaster area.

The Iowa Department of Transportation has closed several roads due to flooding. Iowa Highway 3 is closed in both directions between Shell Rock and Waverly. Portions of Highway 18 near Charles City and Highway 13 near Manchester have detours. Many rural bridges in Black Hawk County are also closed to traffic.

The American Red Cross has set up two emergency shelters in Northeast Iowa and will add more as needed. Spokesperson Kara Kelly says there are shelters at Grace Baptist Church in Waverly and at the Clarksville Community School. She says volunteers are also delivering cleanup supplies to Mason City, and will be in the communities of Charles City and Janesville to provide water and snacks to residents helping with sandbagging.