Iowa officials respond to flooding


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Torrential rains brought widespread flooding Monday to eastern and central Iowa, causing the inundation of major arterial streets and rural roads and prompting quick state and university action with a round of disaster proclamations and preliminary flood-protection efforts.

As rivers, creeks, and streams swelled, officials undertook combative flooding action that have become a common sight in recent years.

Two major energy service providers, MidAmerican Energy and Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative, reported several thousand power outages throughout the day Monday.

The Iowa River at Iowa City hit 0.24 feet above flood stage as of 3 a.m. Tuesday. It had risen 5.75 feet in the previous 24 hours. The river level is expected to rise to 19.5 feet, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District gage data.

The Corps notified Johnson County Emergency Management officials early Monday afternoon that it will begin increasing the amount of water released from the Coralville Reservoir, according to a news release.

Beginning Monday, the Corps said it would gradually increase the outflow on the Iowa River from a current rate of 7,000 cubic feet per second  to an anticipated level of 10,000 on Tuesday.

As of 11 p.m. Monday, the Coralville Reservoir stood at 698 feet, shy of the record set in the summer of 2008, when floodwaters spilled over the spillway at 717 feet.

The Corps outflow of 10,000 cubic feet per second will remain in effect until further notice, the release said.

“It is a positive step that the Corps is working to control the water level at this early stage,” said Dave Wilson, Johnson County Emergency Management coordinator in the release. “In light of the heavy rain and immediate forecast, there has been concern about the water level at the Reservoir.”

Wilson declined to speak with The Daily Iowan to provide any further information on county flood -protection efforts as of early Monday afternoon.

UI spokesperson Tom Moore said university officials decided to halt construction of the permanent flood-mitigation project at Mayflower in order to install HESCO temporary flood barriers and the suspension of the Cambus service will remain until further notice.

The city of Iowa City shut down the two northbound lanes of North Dubuque Street for the flood-barrier construction.

According to the most current data provided by UI Facilities Management, the permanent restoration of the eight-story East Campus residence hall is valued at nearly $7.2 million. Completion is set for Dec. 5.

It is not yet clear how the HESCO barrier installation will affect the restoration timeline of Mayflower, which UI officials have long-eyed for protection even before the 2008 flood.

Moore said UI officials would attempt to start the HESCO installation process Monday afternoon, weather permitting.

Iowa City Public Works Director Rick Fosse said the original estimate of 17,000 cubic feet per second was removed from the flooding equation after analyzing the expected forecast for later this week.

Flooding that swallowed areas of Dubuque Street — a critical north-south artery that connects travelers from Interstate 80 to the University of Iowa campus and downtown Iowa City — Fosse said, is not derived from the adjacent Iowa River, but rather a result of the Monday thunderstorm bands.

“[The Corps is] predicting to hold at 10,000 CFS, which should prevent the Iowa River from flooding Dubuque Street,” Fosse said. “We’re optimistic depending on how much rain total we get overnight through the [Fourth of July].”

Dubuque Street sees more than 25,500 cars each day between Interstate 80, downtown, and the University of Iowa campus, according to recent traffic counts.

In the short-term, Moore said UI officials will “actively monitor” the situation. 

According to the release, at 10,000 cubic feet per second, one of Iowa City’s largest park areas, City Park, and some low-lying areas are affected throughout the county.

At 11,500 cubic feet per second, one or more lanes of Dubuque Street near Mayflower experiences flooding, the release said.

Rural unincorporated residents of Johnson County are able to collect sand bags free of charge near the west gate at Johnson County Secondary Roads, 4810 Melrose Ave., county officials announced Monday afternoon.

Urban and rural areas across Iowa were met with similar severe weather. Gov. Terry Branstad issued a proclamation of disaster emergency for Adair, Cedar, Guthrie, Linn, and Jones Counties on the heels of the damage.

The aid will allow state resources, including funding streams to be used to assist these areas. Adair and Guthrie Counties will be able to access the Iowa Individual Assistance Program.

The incentive brings grants up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line and can be put toward home and car repairs, clothing, food, and temporary housing needs.

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