Flooding in Iowa: Lessons from the Past, Plans for the Future

Sep 28, 2016

The lessons learned from the historic flood of 2008 are helping Iowa mitigate damage from this year’s flooding in northern and eastern parts of the state.

Jeff Olson is the Public Safety Director for the City of Cedar Falls. On Wednesday's Talk of Iowa, Olson told host Charity Nebbe the city recorded its second-highest water levels in this year's flooding.

After the 2008 flood, the city wrote a plan that Olson says, "tells us exactly what we need to do," when the Cedar River peaks. 

"We have a list of knowing of when roads are closed, when neighborhoods go under at certain levels 'cause we track those from the '08 flood," says Olson. "That was very, very helpful for us. "

Most of the roads in Cedar Falls are open again. Olson says he hopes all 400 properties that flooded will be inspected by Friday. 

In Delaware County, changes in land use since 2008 has helped people prepare for flooding from the Maquoketa River. Conservation projects designed to capture and then release water gradually have helped to slow the water's flow. 

Emergency Manager Mike Ryan says flooding might be becoming a more frequent problem, so people might want to reconsider where they choose to live and build businesses in the future.

"I’m not sure if you want to discuss climate change, or climate differences, or what’s causing this," says Ryan, "But we seem to be in a cycle that we’re getting greater rainfall in a quicker, more repeating pattern."

Some Iowans say this year they've been experiencing flood fatigue due to the amounts of work and stress in dealings with excessive water. 

"It's been a hellish nightmare for the past month," says Fredrick of Elkader, who called into Talk of Iowa. "We flooded three times within the last month....It's a love-hate relationship with the (Turkey River,) being so close to it. To be honest, it's been a lot more hate than love." 

To keep up to date on flood alerts and stream conditions the Iowa Flood Information System has maps tracking developments. 

Listen to the entire Talk of Iowa interview with Olson, Ryan, and others impacted by the flood below.