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Flood awareness month begins today

BY MICHELLE MCCONNAUGHEY | MARCH 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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Today marks the start of Gov. Terry Branstad’s proclaimed Flood Awareness Month, which will focus on teaching Iowans about flood risks and ways to prevent destruction.

And officials say now is the time to start preparing.

“There are two times a year when floods occur: spring, when the snow melts, and then later in June,” said Tom Alger, the communications director for the Iowa Insurance Division, which is part of the campaign. “We want to start by getting the word out about flood awareness now while we can.”

Alger said that given Iowa’s flood history, it’s important for efforts to start sooner than later.

Though it’s a designated “month,” the program will last until the end of 2012. The source of funding for the campaign is a federal Community Development Block Grant; the project will cost more than $200,000.

The campaign is a collaborative effort among the Iowa Insurance Division, the Rebuild Iowa Office, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division.

The campaign will target the communities that were most affected by the floods of 2008 and 2010 by advertising how people can access information about flooding through various media, Alger said.

This year shouldn’t be as bad as the devastating flood of 2008, said state climatologist Harry Hillaker.

“As far as the Iowa City area, even though there was strong snowfall, it shouldn’t have much of a flood impact,” he said.

Hillaker said this winter’s thaws have managed to get rid of the majority of the snow, unlike last year, when there was minimal melting and more chances for flooding.

But some rivers are still running higher than normal, he said.

“It’s almost a guarantee the Mississippi River will flood this spring because of the snowfall,” Hillaker said.

Iowa has historically been known to have heavy spring flooding, said Stefanie Bond of Iowa Homeland Security.

“Based on the flooding we had in 2008 and 2010, it’s important to know the risks and know what can happen in order to be prepared,” she said.

Though March will largely consist of awareness campaigns, city officials are working on infrastructure and other local programs as well.

“For the Iowa River basin, the flood of 2008 is still fresh in everyone’s mind and awareness is high, but people aren’t as aware about the creeks that are at risk for flooding, so people need to check the floodplain maps,” said Rick Fosse, the director of Iowa City Public Works.

But he said the city is better prepared now. Officials have purchased 70 homes that were in hazardous flood areas so they will no longer be at risk for damage.

Along with the efforts of the Flood Awareness Month, the Iowa City Gateway project — a reconstruction plan for northern Dubuque Street and the Park Road bridge — will be open for public discussion and input Thursday at Parkview Church, 15 Foster Road, from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

The project includes a three-phase process establishing what goals the project should accomplish, the types and location of improvements to meet those goals, and the effect on the surrounding area.


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