Homes in Cedar Rapids evac­u­ated ahead of flood­ing

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS -

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA >> Sev­eral thou­sand res­i­dents of Cedar Rapids left their homes Sun­day as flood­wa­ters be­gan to spill out of the ris­ing Cedar River, and Iowa’s sec­ond-largest city worked to ap­ply the lessons of­fi­cials learned af­ter the record 2008 flood.

The river crested Satur­day night in Water­loo and Cedar Falls, which are about 55 miles (90 kilo­me­ters) up­stream from Cedar Rapids, which is Iowa’s sec­ond-largest city, with about 130,000 peo­ple.

The water lev­els in Cedar Falls and Water­loo were slightly lower than had been ex­pected, but they still reached lev­els that were sec­ond only to those in 2008, when a ma­jor flood dev­as­tated the re­gion.

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice pre­dicted that the river will crest at 23 feet in Cedar Rapids on Tues­day morn­ing — well be­low the 2008 record of 31.12 feet. Of­fi­cials asked those liv­ing in about 5,000 down­town homes near the river to evac­u­ate. They said it could be days be­fore peo­ple can re­turn home.

The Cedar Rapids school dis­trict said Sun­day that it is can­cel­ing classes through Wednes­day be­cause of the flood­ing. Dis­trict of­fi­cials will reeval­u­ate the sit­u­a­tion by Wednes­day af­ter­noon.

Cedar Rapids City Man­ager Jeff Pomer­anz said the city has been pre­par­ing to deal with a ma­jor flood since that of 2008, which caused bil­lions of dol­lars of dam­age. City work­ers and vol­un­teers have been work­ing for days to build a tem­po­rary sys­tem of lev­ees to try to con­tain the flood­wa­ters.

“All the work is com­ing to­gether, and you can see the ben­e­fit of plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion,” Pomer­anz said.

Af­ter the 2008 flood, about 1,350 homes near the Cedar River were bought out and de­stroyed to re­duce the amount of dam­age that fu­ture floods could in­flict. About 45 acres of green space sit in that area to­day.

On Sun­day morn­ing, more than 100 vol­un­teers helped re­move the seats from the re­stored Para­mount The­ater in Cedar Rapids and move them up to the sec­ond floor to pro­tect them from flood­wa­ters. The the­ater was heav­ily dam­aged in the 2008 flood be­cause it is one block from the Cedar River, and it cost $35 mil­lion to re­store.

Un­like in 2008, res­i­dents have had more time to pre­pare for a flood. The ben­e­fit of that ex­tra time was clear in the small town of Palo up­stream where res­i­dents of more than 80 homes evac­u­ated.

Kim Hutchins, whose home in Palo is about 10 miles up­stream from Cedar Rapids, told the Des Moines Regis­ter that she spent Satur­day pack­ing up her kitchen while some friends un­hooked her fur­nace in the base­ment and moved it up to the garage. Most of her fur­ni­ture was piled onto trail­ers to move.

“They’ve been telling us it was com­ing for days. Last time, we had eight or 10 hours to get out,” said Hutchins, 53, who planned to go stay with her mother.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Peo­ple view the flood­ing on the Cedar River in down­town Water­loo, Iowa, on Satur­day.

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