Publication Date September 26, 2016

Iowans scramble to battle 2nd-worst floods in history

United States
The Cedar River flows through downtown Cedar Rapids on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016.  Photo: David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said that city officials learned Wednesday that they had four days to react to the flood, and he praised residents for taking ownership of their community in the flood fight.

“This is the last day to get all the work done that needs to be done, and people have been working very hard,” Corbett said. “I know that there have to be a lot of sore backs and sore arms and shoulders for all the work that has been done. It was citywide, really.”

Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said that the city has been preparing to deal with a major flood since the 2008 flood, and that these preparations should help.

“All this work is coming together. You can see the benefits of planning and preparation in the various streets and infrastructure improvements and the protection systems in order to make sure that our city is safe,” Pomeranz said. “That could not have happened without tremendous preparation by our city, our county government, our private sector and most importantly our citizens.”

Corbett also said that all areas of Cedar Rapids are the subject of efforts to establish flood defense, unlike plans for flood control developed by federal officials that only would have protected the east side of the river.


In Vinton, a Benton County community about 35 miles northwest of Cedar Rapids, the river rose dramatically Sunday, up nearly 6 feet in a 24-hour period ending at 5 p.m. Iowa Highway 150 was closed in both directions between U.S. Highway 218 and County Road E16,  according to the Iowa Department of Transportation.

The river was scheduled to crest in Vinton on Monday morning at 21.5 feet, which is below the 2008 record of 24.6 feet.


In the Waterloo and Cedar Falls area, where the Cedar River crested Saturday morning, local officials are keeping their fingers crossed that flood damage will be significantly less than the devastation experienced in the 2008 flooding...The river peaked Saturday in Waterloo at 22.65 feet, which was well above flood stage of 13 feet, but less than the 2008 record crest of 27 feet. The river had fallen to 22.3 feet by late Sunday morning. It is projected to continue dropping slowly in the coming days until it falls below flood stage on Thursday.


In Shell Rock and Greene, both Butler County communities on the Shell Rock River, big cleanup efforts were underway on Sunday.

Shell Rock City Council member Benjamin DeWitt estimated 45 houses had flood damage. Most of the problems were in basements because of excessive water and because of sewer backups that he described as “kind of nasty.” His house was among those affected.

The river crested late Friday in Shell Rock at 21.37 feet, which was higher than the 2008 record stage of 20.36 feet. It had fallen to 15.4 feet by Sunday afternoon and is forecast to drop below flood stage of 13.5 feet on Tuesday.

In Greene, Mayor Pro Tem Allan Zweck said there was widespread damage, particularly to houses with water and sewage in basements. His house was also included in the mess.


In Clarksville, a city of about 1,400 people about 30 miles northwest of Waterloo, a common sight on Sunday was local residents and area football players hauling wet carpet and wet couches out of flood-damaged homes.

About 100 houses had either water in the basement or water inside the house, said Clarkville City Council member Diane Renning