CEDAR RAPIDS – Ice jams above the 5-in-1 dam have sent the Cedar River out of its banks in sufficiently surprise fashion that city officials on Tuesday decided to deploy a temporary system of sand-filled flood barriers to protect property for the first time since the city’s historic flood of 2008.
At mid-afternoon Tuesday, city officials were huddling in an emergency meeting at City Hall where they decided to employ the temporary flood barriers, called HESCO barriers, even as city crews already had begun to build a temporary earthen berm near Ellis Park and started pumping water back over it and had started to bring supplies of sandbags to the northwest Cedar Rapids neighborhoods where the river was flooding.
Much of the property in this neighborhood of the city is gone, bought out and demolished after it was ruined in the 2008 flood.
Last night, Mayor Ron Corbett said people who know the Cedar River’s antics well told him on Tuesday that they had never seen ice jams on the river above the 5-in-1 dam as bad as the ones in the river now.
“And all we can do is react to Mother Nature as best we can,” Corbett said. He said the city was erected the Hesco barriers, pumping water and going door-to-door to inform residents of their options.
Corbett said the river had crested and water levels appeared to be falling last night.
“Unless more ice chucks block the river flow again, it appears the worst is over,” the mayor said.
During the afternoon, Cassie Willis, the city’s communications director, reported that the city had been lowering the gates on 5-in-1 dam to help move more water over it. City crews, she added, also were intentionally directing water down some streets to keep it away from homes and buildings. Several roads in the area between Ellis Park and Penn Avenue NW had been temporarily closed as had one lane on busy Edgewood Road NW at Ellis Boulevard NW. Willis did not know of any structure that had taken on water as of midafternoon.
Among the complications, Willis said, were “gawkers” who had come out to see water in the street and in some backyards and to see the dramatic ice jams in the river.
Larry McKinnon was cutting hair at 2:30 p.m. in his shop at 1601 Ellis Blvd. NW even as water was creeping into the neighborhood behind his shop.
“Yes, I’m worried,” McKinnon said. “It doesn’t seem like they’re in a very big hurry about it. It seems like they could have been at it a little sooner.”
Al Pierson said he was surrounded by water at his flower shop and greenhouses, 1800 Ellis Blvd. NW, though no water had yet come into the business by midafternoon. He said plenty of city workers were at the site, and he said the water appeared to have dropped a few inches in the last hour or so.
Linda Seger, the president of Northwest Neighbors Neighborhood Association, had walked to Pierson’s shop about noon on Tuesday, but couldn’t walk out because the water had risen. Water was creeping through backyards near her house in the 1600 block of Eighth Street NW.
Anyone who needs sandbags can call the Department of Public Works, 319-286-5826.