The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Archive for June, 2008|Monthly archive page

A too-long, first draft of the flood arrival story: thank you flood victims Frank King, Dale Snyder, Frank Stephen, Jim Macek for sharing stories

In City Hall on June 17, 2008 at 7:28 pm

Nothing provided better notice, greater comfort and, ultimately, more misplaced hope here last week than the automatic gauge near the Eighth Avenue bridge — at a spot where the U.S. Geological Survey has operated a Cedar River monitoring device since 1903.

From his two-story house near Ellis Park with a back yard as long as two basketball courts stretching to the Cedar River, Dale Snyder certainly was watching the river crest forecasts, which were based on the gauge’s readings of the river’s rise.

So, too, was Frank Stephen from his Dostal Catering business, which has been in place in Czech Village along the riverfront since 1924.

In fact, most everyone knew what the National Weather Service was predicting based on the river gauge’s readings.

News accounts constantly referred to the readings and river-level forecasts, city officials quoted them at every turn and the public could track the forecasts via computer right along with City Hall.

Then the gauge stopped working. First power was cut to it, then a battery backup didn’t work, and then an effort by the U.S. Geological Survey to fix it was turned back by the rising water.

As Wednesday morning turned to afternoon and evening, it wasn’t clear what anybody knew for sure.

Sure, on Monday and for nearly every day until Friday, rain was still pounding in Cedar Rapids and up north in the expansive Cedar River watershed. And the cities of Cedar Falls and Waterloo above Cedar Rapids were readying for record flooding there and reaching it by Wednesday.

All the while, too, the Eighth Avenue bridge gauge at the edge of downtown Cedar Rapids was doing its part to sound an alert.

After all, the gauge on Monday and into Tuesday was helping to forecast a historic flood crest in Cedar Rapids of 22.5 feet — 2.5 feet above the all-time crest for the city and more than 3 feet above the level of the damaging, well-remembered flood of 1993.

But Dale Snyder out on Ellis Boulevard NW and Frank Stephen, his business sitting behind an earthen levee protecting Czech Village, hardly flinched.

Just three doors up from Snyder, at Jack Henry Salon & Spa, Racquel Pfeiler had just given a facial, hardly noticing the river’s rise out the riverfront salon’s giant windows. High water rising to an electrical box in the salon’s basement had closed the salon before, and as recently as April. But just for a day at a time.

Standing sturdy, too, was the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, which opened in 1995 at its riverfront perch at Czech Village. It needed a flood in the 500-year range – 26.5 feet in Cedar Rapids — before water would run in on the building’s floor, a floor which Gail Naughton, museum president/CEO, called “nearly indestructible.”

If anything distracted from the river-level forecasts and brought its own level of comfort, it was the city crews, who had kicked into high gear, working around-the-clock, implementing the city’s flood-action plan, born out of a damaging flood in 1993 and refined at river rises ever since.

Crews were placing pumps in many flood-prone locations and sandbags around storm sewer outlets and manholes to prevent rising river water pushing back through the sewer pipes.

More than 225 dump truck loads of dirt had been brought to shore up some low spots on the vital earthen levees protecting the Time Check Neighborhood, Czech Village and the Osborn Park area across the river.

Public Works Director Dave Elgin thought the Time Check levee, protecting more than 1,000 mostly working-class homes and an assortment of businesses, would do its job if the river, as forecast into Tuesday, climbed to 22.5 feet.

But even then, Craig Hanson, the city’s public works maintenance manager, was scratching his head. Veterans of the city’s public works operation, he reported, had come to learn over time that the Cedar River crest historically meant a river level in Cedar Rapids one to two feet below the crest up north at Waterloo. But the projected Waterloo forecast would put the Cedar Rapids crest higher than 22.5 feet, maybe a couple feet higher than the level the gauge under the Eighth Avenue bridge was still helping to forecast.

“We’ll see. We’ll see,” Hanson said.

By Wednesday, the Eighth Avenue bridge gauge was recording higher river stages, and the crest forecast suddenly jumped to 24.5 feet – 2 feet above the city’s 100-year flood level, but 2 feet short of the 500-year level here — with the crest’s arrival expected by Friday morning.

By the middle of the morning on Wednesday, the City Council hadn’t yet called off its regular Wednesday evening meeting at City Hall. Then the council did. At 2 p.m., it convened in emergency session and issued emergency powers to city leaders. City Hall was closing at 4 p.m.

The council learned, too, that evacuations were underway for those in the Time Check Neighborhood and elsewhere who were living behind protective levees in the city’s 100-year flood plain. Overnight, leaks in temporary additions to the levees just below Czech Village and across the river in Osborn Park, had prompted evacuations there.

With the river gauge helping forecast a 24.5-foot crest, much of City Hall’s optimism of besting the river seemed to have waned Wednesday afternoon. The city’s Elgin said crews would focus on beefing up temporary levees in the Time Check area, but he conceded it was getting late. He had all but given up helping levees elsewhere.

Out along the river, Dale Snyder and a couple neighbors, whose houses were among a group along Ellis Boulevard NW upstream from the earthen levee protecting the Time Check Neighborhood, had taken note, too, that the river-level forecast had climbed to 24.5 feet.

Snyder said he and his neighbors employed a laser-light measuring device to determine just where the river had to climb before they needed to start to worry.

Despite the city’s call for evacuation, he figured the river would need 28 feet to get in the back door.

“I wasn’t too concerned,” said the 69-year-old Snyder, who continues to run a small fabricating company and said he stayed put to protect business records and personnel items.

At Dostal Catering in Czech Village, Frank Stephen said a city public works supervisor was telling him that the river was coming at the city harder than expected.

Even so, Stephen had been through the city’s flood of 1993, and he had a sense of the river’s reach. At worst, he said he expected a foot or two of flood water in the building on Thursday when he closed up Wednesday evening.

But by then, the city was in a flurry of activity. City officials had ordered the closing of all the downtown bridges, because they knew the coming river, unbelievably, would overtop the spans. The river forecasts, based on manual readings of river flow, now were fearing water in the 28-foot range.

Those in the 500-year flood plain were told late Wednesday afternoon to get out now.

Even then, Jim Macek, owner of Reliable Machinery & Manufacturing, at 415 H Ave. NW in the 500-year flood plain, said he expected just a little water. Deeper into the Time Check Neighborhood at 816 E Ave. NW, Frank King, the neighborhood association president, was moving items from the basement to his garage. That’s all he figured necessary.

Clearly, though, river gauges and forecasts didn’t matter when night turned to day Thursday morning and rain continued to pour into the Cedar River and its already-overflowing tributaries as the flood crest approached from the north.

Between rains, Dostal Catering’s Frank Stephen and his wife, Barb, walked out onto the 12th Avenue bridge just upstream from Czech Village with a camera. With it from there, they got a spectacular photo of the CRANDIC rail bridge, lined with rock-laden hopper cars to keep the bridge deck in place, twisting in the center before dropping into the river.

Dostal said he then turned to look downstream at Czech Village and saw the roof of his business sticking out of the flooded river.

By Thursday afternoon, the heart of the downtown was deep in flood water, too, with the flood crest nearly a day away. It arrived at 10:15 a.m. Friday and hit 31.2 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

By Friday, power was out in the flooded areas; the city’s water supply was running at 25 percent of capacity; people were told not to shower or bath; Mercy Medical Center, between Eighth and 10 streets SE, had been evacuated; and but for Interstate 380 through the city, most major routes were closed because of flooding.

By Friday morning, too, meteorologists from ABC News’ Good Morning America and the Weather Channel were in town as was the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The damage estimate was put at $700 million-plus.

Mayor Kay Halloran called the flood “devastating,” and council member Brian Fagan, “unforgettable.” And City Manager Jim Prosser began talking of the three “Rs” – reimbursement, recovery and reinvestment.

On Friday, Cedar Rapids native and city historian Mark Hunter, said he was still dazed about what had come at the city that over the years he had come to learn so much about.

“How could we prepare for this?” Hunter said. “Forty-eight hours ago, we thought, at best, it was going to be 22 or 23 feet. And now, wow, we’re 10 feet higher.

“I look around and I can’t believe it. I don’t think anyone can. It’s like the dam broke and all hell broke loose.”

Hunter said the water had overtaken much of the city’s historic landscape and many of the symbols and areas the city holds near and dear to it.

He began to list the places and buildings, and then trailed off – City Hall, Czech Village, New Bohemia, the Czech & Slovak museum/library, the Louis Sullivan-designed bank on First Street SW, the Time Check Neighborhood.

“It’s literally ‘the’ historic event of Cedar Rapids,” Hunter said. “It’s going to surpass any history in the past and most any that will come in the future.

“This is the big, big story of the history of Cedar Rapids. This is the big one.”

Hunter, who lost his job at The History Center here when financial hardship overtook the museum in the last couple years, nonetheless has continued as a presence, leading regular historical tours through all the spots in the city now under water.

“Every site that has been affected by the flood water has a personal story to go with it,” he said. “And I’ve researched those stories. And I tell those stories when I give tours.

“It’s just very personal. I know some much about every site,” he said. “They’re like my friends, and they’ve all been deluged by water.”

At the river’s crest at about 11 a.m. Friday, 149,500 cubic feet per second of water was flowing by the river gauge under Cedar Rapids’ Eighth Avenue bridge, David Eash, a hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey in Iowa City, said Friday.

By comparison, he reported, the highest flood flows ever previously recorded at the bridge were 73,000 cfs in 1961; 71,000 cfs in 1993; 66,800 in 1965; 64,000 in 1929 (the 1851 flood was thought to equal 65,000 csf).

(The previous record river stage at Cedar Rapids of 20 feet was recorded in 1929 and 1851, though Eash was not sure why years for the previous record flows were different from the year with the previous record stage levels in the city.)

Eash said none of the previous flow levels in Cedar Rapids ever reached the 50-year flood level (one-in-50 chance of a flood in any given year) in the city, which he put at 75,500 cfs passing the river gauge, let alone the 100-year level, which is 109,000 cfs, he said.

“We’re way off the chart,” Eash said of the flow rate of 149,500 recorded Friday morning in Cedar Rapids. “I think we’re just going to have to look at this and try to make sense out of this the best we can.”

As confounding, he said, is what didn’t hold true on the river between Waterloo and Cedar Rapids. Historically, he said, the flow rate passing the city of Waterloo to the north is larger than the flow rate at Cedar Rapids once flood waters get to Cedar Rapids from Waterloo. This time, Cedar Rapids’ flow rate is higher than Waterloo’s, Eash said.

He called it “shocking” and “amazing.”

On Thursday, the day the river roared into the city and the city lost the battle, Dave Elgin, the city’s public works director, pointed to the downpours in and above Cedar Rapids even as the Cedar River crest was approaching Cedar Rapids. Elgin suggested that the Cedar River at Cedar Rapids was hit with “a couple of flash floods” even as the crest was coming down the river toward the city on Thursday morning.

The Geological Survey’s Eash said an explanation like that makes sense.
“It’s all about timing,” he said. “If the tributaries into the Cedar River got to their peaks as the (Cedar River) crest was coming down, that just all adds up to a bigger flood at Cedar Rapids.”

There is no disputing that there has been a lot of rain in Eastern Iowa and the Cedar River watershed.

Bob Libra, state geologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, noted Friday that it really hasn’t stopped snowing or raining in Eastern Iowa since December.

“We’ve overloaded the system with water,” he said.

It is difficult in the short run, Libra added, to put the flooding now underway into a bigger picture like climate change, which some suggest may be causing greater variations in weather, he said.

At the same time, Bill Northey, Iowa’s secretary of agriculture, on Friday said that Iowa farmers, who are now seeking attractively high grain prices, are tilling only a very small amount of additional land this year. He had been asked if more water is running off fields than before because less land is in conservation programs.

Northey said only 80,000 acres out of 1.8 million came out of the state’s conservation reserve program this year to be farmed in a state that he said tills 24 million acres.

Even so, Northey was up in Delaware County on Friday inspecting conservation practices like the use of terracing and grassy waterways. And he said it was apparent how well the practices performed in holding back runoff and preventing erosion compared to fields that are not using such practices. Heavy rains can “surge” from fields and end up in places like Cedar Rapids, he said.

No one had a better view than Dale Snyder of what it looked like early Thursday when all the forecasts, all the hope and all the effort by city crews and troops of volunteer sand-baggers was coming to nothing.

By Wednesday afternoon, city crews had built a make-shift sandbag levee through Snyder’s back yard at 1867 Ellis Blvd. NW, extending the permanent Time Check levee upstream from where it stops at Penn Avenue NW. City crews then came back and added more sand bag, he said.

But by 11 p.m. Wednesday night, Snyder could see river water seeping through the sand bags when he walked the 200 or so feet of his back yard from the river to his house to sleep. He was back up at 6:10 a.m., to see the wall of sand bags collapse.

“I knew I was in trouble then,” he said.

At 7 a.m., he said rain was pouring, lightning was cracking close to the house and water soon after was pouring into his basement.

In no time it filled the basement and was running in the back door. About 8 a.m., he went to the front door in time to see river overwhelming the temporary levee built across Ellis Boulevard just upstream from his house. The boulevard instantly turned into the river. “It was boiling,” he said. The river water that had been headed through his house toward Ellis Boulevard, suddenly reversed and headed back through his house toward the river.

Snyder retreated to his second floor, going up and down moving what he could to higher ground. Out his window, he watched as boat houses, broken loose from the Ellis Boat Harbor, floated by on the river. He saw the river engulf his pickup, and fill up his motor home up the windshield.

Without electricity, exhausted and at the urging from family and friends, he conceded late Thursday and let the family called the Fire Department.

“I couldn’t do any more,” Snyder said. “I just gave in.”

Firefighters plucked him from the roof of his front porch about 11 p.m. By then, windows in his house were breaking out, he said.

Frank King, who only recently has reassumed the mantle of neighborhood association president, said he stood on the levee protecting the Time Check Neighborhood and saw that things were looking iffy as early as Tuesday.

And he began to move things from his own basement at 816 E Ave. NW at the edge of the city’s 500-year flood plain on Wednesday. “Did I think it would get five feet in front of my house? No,” he said.

But the floodwater arrived fast there, too, overtaking his vehicle as he and his wife tried driving off at 1 p.m. Thursday. They had to walk in water the last block or two to safety.

In short order, King went out and bought a new 10-foot johnboat and paddles and, on his own later Thursday, he paddled back to his house.

It was that boat tied to the front door of his house that a local TV news station captured on videotape.

He said he must have made 100 trips, carrying items from his flooded first floor of his home to the second floor. “My life is here. This house was full of treasures you can’t put a price on,” he said.

But by 3:30 a.m. Friday, he said, “I thought I was going to lie down and die. I was physically exhausted. And the house was creaking and groaning.” Firefighters rescued him, too.

By Friday afternoon, King and a friend had paddled back to the house, where they found the water near the top of his front-yard bushes, six-and-half feet off the ground. A rabbit was sitting on the top of the bushes.

King, like Dale Snyder, does not have flood insurance, which is required, generally speaking, only if have a mortgage and you live in the 100-year flood plain. Both men put their losses in six-figures.

But King was looking past his personal losses, too, and imagining that much of the old, working-class Time Check Neighborhood will be lost forever. Any federal assistance on homes that had been valued, say at $50,000, wouldn’t likely be close to what it would cost to rebuild the homes, he said.

For his part, King, 59, was expecting to stay in the family home.

Dale Snyder, 69, meanwhile, said he certainly would return to his riverside property as quickly as possible. Unless, he said, the city built a levee like the one now in place just downstream from him. A levee would ruin everything for him, he said.

Dostal Catering’s Frank Stephen, 57, who was still operating on Friday from a new spot, said he wasn’t about to call it quits.

“There’s too much of a history with Dostal Catering just to walk away from it,” he said.

Jim Macek, 64, spent Friday buying supplies to begin the clean-up effort at his 30-employee Reliable Machine & Manufacturing Co. in the Time Check Neighborhood.

“It’s going to be expensive, but it’s recoverable,” said Macek, who is an engineer as well as a plant owner and operator.

He, too, had been following the forecasts based on the river gauge just like everyone else.

What he said he most wants to know in the days and weeks ahead – after he cleans up “a real mess” left by up to six-feet of water in his plant – is what mix of forces came into play to make the river get to where it got.

“That would be interesting to me,” Macek said. “It would make me feel a lot better about the projections.”

A generous flood victim: Mary Dickinson lets a reporter go back in with her

In Floods on June 17, 2008 at 3:50 am

The most heartbreaking stories are yet to come.

Even so, there was still plenty to cry about Sunday, under sunny, blue skies, and Mary Dickinson was doing just that outside her house at 1709 10th St. NW.

Dickinson, 43, a controller at the Cottage Grove Place retirement community, was in the early groups of residents who negotiated security checkpoints Sunday in what authorities are calling a careful process to get people safely back to their homes to see what the flood did to them.

Those back into the neighborhoods first are those whose houses are at the edge of the flood where the water has done the least damage and has receded the most. Dickinson’s place, built in 1957, is among a stretch of homes beyond the old Time Check Neighborhood, outside the 100-year flood plain, and in her case, on the edge of the area where a flood is supposed to have one chance in 500 in a given year of hitting.

On Sunday, she took her time before looking inside her house, standing in the driveway crying about the flood line a few feet up on the front, with the fear of what she would find inside.

In first went daughter and son-in-law, Sandy and Tim Skaar. Home-improvement regulars, the Skaars emerged with a positive assessment.

“This is fixable,” Tim Skaar said. “There will be a lot of ripping and tearing out. But we can definitely work with this.”

Some mix of flood water and sewer backup had filled Mary Dickinson’s basement to the top and now remained about 18 inches deep. After venturing down there, Sandy Skaar said it was like a trip into the sewers in the movie, “Alien.”

“Yuck. It’s pretty raunchy, Mom,” she said. Tim Skaar said you could taste the muck.

Dickinson and her family saved much of what was inside the house by working hard even before anyone knew the flood would get to her. They moved more valuable items from the basement and placed furniture and other items up off the first-floor.

Even so, she lost her furnace, hot water heater, some furniture and other items in the basement, part of which is finished and will need rebuilt.

Water also climbed into the main floor, ruining the carpet there, the bottom of the dry wall and some keepsakes. Her Bible from her First Communion was still dry.

Dickinson is on task: She has made her first call to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday, and Sunday afternoon met with a FEMA representative in person in the neighborhood.

FEMA will inspect when the basement is pumped, she said she was told.

If Mary’s experience to date means anything, FEMA learned from Katrina.

After about an hour look-see, Dickinson and her family left the house for now. But the Skaars and the rest of the family are right there for her.

“I thought my home was my accomplishment. It’s not. It’s my kids,” said Dickinson, a single mom who worked her way through college and on to home ownership.


The Flood of 2008: District 1 council member Kris Gulick offers these thoughts and updates

In City Hall, Floods, Kris Gulick on June 16, 2008 at 1:32 am

Kris Gulick’s remarks on Saturday, June 14, at the daily update on the June 2008 Flood and its aftermath.

I can’t come up with any words that describe what has happened to our community.  My heart goes out to those who have been displaced by this disaster.  I represent district 1 but I also represent the entire city as a councilmember; all citizens in our community have been and are being affected by this event whether that is physically or emotionally. 

Thanks to the thousands of volunteers who have helped.  Our work unfortunately is just beginning.  The city has been in a constant crisis management mode for the past several days.  That will continue to extend into the future.

Over the past few days the council has dealt with crisis management and now we are focusing on what I call the recovery, rebuild and recast. 

First Recovery:

We are taking actions to assure the delivery of our most critical services.  Police, Fire, Water, Water Pollution Control, Solid Waste, Public Works and Communications.  It is imperative that these basic services continue to be delivered at the highest level possible. 

Plans are being made to have the police department relocated by Monday to: 4200 C Street SW former MCI building.    They have been sharing 911 communications with the Marion Police Department and will continue to do so until the city’s system is back in operations.  Police should be able to get back into their facility within a few weeks and the Cedar Rapids 911 system should be up soon.    

Fire equipment has been relocated around the community at other stations.  Fire personnel from the central stations will be relocating to Westdale Mall who is donating space.  Others locating at Westdale are the assessor’s office and code enforcement, housing, parking and transit, and library staff.

Water treatment is being assessed hourly with plans to get access to additional wells as soon as the water recedes.  Water department remain in their current location.   

Water Pollution Control is focusing on preventing backups in residences and will be working to get completely back on line once water levels drop. 

Solid Waste is continuing to deliver services in all areas that are accessible.  They will be of critical importance as we remove the volume of debris that will exist once the water recedes.  They are also located at Westdale Mall. 

Public works intends to relocate back into their existing facility as soon as possible and continue their important work.  They are being temporarily located at Jefferson High School along with Fleet services. 

A remote location for general city operations including information technology and phone systems needed to keep citizens informed is being located at River Ridge Rd a property owned by Aegon.  This location will also serve as city hall operations including city manager, community development, city clerk, city attorney, finance, human resources and safety, treasurer and library administration. 

These plans for ongoing service were developed while at the same time managing the crisis situation and providing our best available levels of service. 

The bottom line is, critical city operations have continued to operate and plans are in place to bolster those services.  Without these plans in place service levels would suffer and gaps in service could occur.  We are committed to these critical services.  We have authorized staff to utilize whatever resources are necessary to maintain these basic services.  This is about the here and now and city staff are executing on these tactics today.

The state and federal government have already reached out.  You will hear more about the federal effort from an official from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Their contact number is 800-621-3362

Landlords of Linn County and other sponsors have established a web site that provides information about rental units immediately available in the area.  The web site is  In addition to learning about available rental units, landlords are also urged to list their open units for rent on the site. 

The recover effort will be lengthy and we will need everyone’s patience and we will need to work together.  At times seeing these images, it can be overwhelming.  It might seem at times it will be impossible to ever rebuild Cedar Rapids, but it is not impossible. 

Two other stages of the recovery stage include working with FEMA and gaining their immediate assistance.  Secondly assisting with the coordination of human services to citizens. 

Next is to Rebuild:

The city council will be meeting with staff after this conference to discuss short term strategies.  This includes working with FEMA and the coordination of human services as mentioned before.  We will also be discussing development of plans to provide housing and the plans for temporary relocation of businesses.  The rebuild stage will no doubt be fluid as we need to take care of people and businesses as expeditiously as possible and at this point we don’t have a complete understanding of the actual damages and what can be saved and what cannot. 

The last phase is Recast.  I mean by this recasting the vision for the community.  This is and always has been a responsibility of the city council as elected leaders for the community.  We will not need to recast the vision itself but need to change our mind set.  Our priorities themselves have not changed however the magnitude of those priorities has indeed changed.  We now look at the downtown in a different light as well as the river and I mean the river well up stream and downstream.  Our infrastructure priority has expanded far beyond streets.  Neighborhoods bring on a new meaning with changes in housing in our core neighborhoods.  Energy as a policy discussion will fit directly into redevelopment and rebuilding parts of the city.  And lastly, communications.  Communications to citizens and participation from citizens will need to be a part of every step we take.  We can end up with a much stronger community because of this tragedy however we will need everyone to do their part and join together for without citizens’ support we will surely fail.  Dramatic events bring families closer together and I expect this will be the same of our citizens.  We will no doubt make mistakes along the way but I can assure you that the nine people representing this community have every intention of making this community a great one. 

Summarizing:  Recovery – Tactical steps to keep the city operational and providing assistance to those directly affected.  Rebuild – Development of plans for housing and relocation of businesses.  Recast – Recast the vision for our community.  The complexion of our city will likely be forever changed.




Sorry about no updates here

In City Hall on June 13, 2008 at 8:02 pm

All hands on deck now for The Gazette newspaper and Website.

IDOT continues to pay attention to Interstate 380 bridge over Coralville Lake: rising water “will not necessarily require” closure

In Floods on June 11, 2008 at 6:02 pm

An Iowa Department of Transportation bridge engineer early Wednesday afternoon said the rising waters of Coralville Lake “will not necessarily require” the closure of Interstate 380 and its bridge over the lake.

On Monday, the IDOT reported it did not expect it would need to close the bridge, which the agency did for two weeks during the 1993 floods.

However, Dave Claman, a bridge engineer for the state agency, said early Wednesday afternoon that the IDOT continues to look at the bridge closely because the prediction for the crest of Coralville Lake continues to rise.

In 1993, the water reached 716.7 feet, and Claman said the latest forecast now is for the water level to reach 715.7 feet on June 19.

Not only is that level a foot lower than in 1993, he noted, but he added, that the agency learned that that the higher 1993 level did not damage the bridge.

“Learning from that experience, it would be less likely we would close the bridge even if it (the water level) gets within a foot of the 1993 level,” he said. “But that’s a monitoring decision.”

Claman said any decision to close the Interstate 380 bridge wouldn’t come until closer to the time Coralville Lake is nearing its crest. He noted, too, that the crest prediction always could move higher.

Czech/Slovak museum and library now expects water in the building

In City Hall on June 11, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Gail Naughton, president/CEO of the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library, on Tuesday was optimistic that the riverfront building would remain dry as the Cedar River marched toward a predicted crest of 22.5 feet. The crest now is expected at 24.5 feet, and at noon Wednesday, Naughton said she now is preparing for flood water to enter the building.

She noted Tuesday that the building, opened in 1995, is built without basement to handle a 500-year flood.

“We are preparing for water in the building,” she said at noon Wednesday. That preparation involves packing up and moving collections in the museum, materials from the library and inventory from the museum store, she said.

The museum would place sandbags around doors, but sandbags do only so much, she said.

Asked if the city might attempt to raise the river levee outside the museum, she wasn’t sure the city could or would. “They’ve got a lot of holes in the dike,” she said, referring to challenges citywide with the rising waters.

Naughton said most of the flooring inside the museum is made of material she called “pretty indestructible.” The collections and materials inside the library were the items of concern, she said.

The city did devote a lot of resources Tuesday to the museum area and Czech Village area. However, it is one of the areas where some evacuations now have occurred. Naughton said the main street in the village, 16th Avenue SW, does not now have water on it.

The DNR has a quick word of advice: Stay out of the water

In Floods on June 11, 2008 at 4:01 pm

Mike Wade, a senior environmental specialist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says no waste-water treatment plant is working as it should anywhere on the Cedar River in Iowa.

As a result, raw sewage is apt to be in any water — in the river, in the street, in the basement, he said.

“There’s raw waste running in every town,” Wade said. “… Don’t be playing in any street water in town.”

Wade said most of the water is well-diluted with rain water and ground water, but, nonetheless, pathogens are in it.


CRANDIC puts about 20 hopper cars on the rail bridge below 8th Avenue SE at Penford to keep the bridge deck in place

In Floods on June 10, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Water is rising to historic levels in Cedar Rapids; there are 1,000 thousand things happening; but at least one thought remains with the CRANDIC Railway bridge just downstream from the Eighth Avenue bridge.

CRANDIC closed it to traffic on Tuesday evening, and now has parked about 20 hopper cars loaded with rock on the span, hoping the weight of the cars and rock will keep the bridge deck from breaking apart with the high water.

A rail bridge in Waterloo, without cars on it, broke apart on Tuesday.

CRANDIC’s marketing manager, Jeff Woods, has characterized the use of rail cars on bridges during floods as a debatable issue. Some think it’s a good idea, while others don’t: They don’t want to risk having to pick up the rail cars from the river should the flood water move the bridge off its piers, he said.


Flooding not expected to repeat 1993 nightmare on Interstate 380 when bridge over Coralville Lake closed road for 2 weeks

In Floods on June 10, 2008 at 1:16 am

State transportation officials Monday afternoon said they are monitoring the rising waters of Coralville Lake but don’t now expect the need to close Interstate 380 as they did for two weeks during flooding in 1993.

Cathy Cutler, transportation planner with the Iowa Department of Transportation in Cedar Rapids, noted Monday afternoon that Coralville Lake in July 1993 reached an elevation of 716.7, or two feet above its current projected crest of 714.7 feet expected on June 17.

Cutler noted water begins to lap on to the beams of northern abutments of the twin bridges on Interstate 380 when the lake water reaches 714 feet.

However, Bruce Brakke, the DOT’s bridge maintenance engineer in Ames, on Monday said the agency learned from the 1993 flood that it did not have to be “that concerned” when some of the bridges’ girders go under the water.

Brakke, who was among those who inspected the Interstate 380 bridges in the 1993 flood, said the lake water at that spot is “slow-moving” and that the Highway 965 bridge and a railroad bridge upstream help to screen out debris.

In 1993, the water was higher and covered more of underside of the Interstate 380 bridges, he added.