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Cedar Rapids Allows Access To Some Homes And Businesses, While River Remains Above Flood Stage

Cedar Rapids officials are allowing some people to return to their homes and businesses, while reminding others that the flooding danger has not completely passed.

As of this morning, the Cedar River level stood at 20.7 feet.  That’s down about a foot from yesterday’s crest, but still nearly nine feet above flood stage.

City officials say the evacuation zone was drawn to include properties that would be affected by a 28-foot flood. The zone is now being pulled back to include properties that would be affected by a flood of up to 24-feet.  City Manager Jeff Pomeranz says nearly 6,000 homes and businesses were in the original evacuation zone, and today’s change means about 2,500 of those properties are no longer considered at risk of flooding.

The city is still awaiting the river’s drop to the 18-foot level, which would put it below the need for protection by temporary, sand-filled Hesco barriers and earthen berms that were built over the weekend.  The river is predicted to drop to 18-feet by about 6pm tomorrow.

“That’s when we will breathe that great sigh of relief,” said Pomeranz.

Officials urge people to remain out of the smaller evacuation zone, as a breach of the temporary flood protection system could send water rushing into previously-dry areas.

Fire Chief Mark English says the left lane of I-380 is no longer restricted to emergency vehicles, but he urges drivers to watch for such vehicles and give way when necessary.

Utilities Director Steve Hershner says the city’s sewer system is still under a great deal of pressure.  He is asking residents throughout the city to use water wisely and limit the amount of water going down the drain for the next 48 hours.  He says too much pressure on the water treatment plant can cause sewage backups in homes and businesses.

Hershner is also asking residents not to place sandbags into waste collection carts.  He says word on how dry or wet sandbags should be disposed of will come in the next few days.  He added that dry sand has a variety of uses around the home, and wet sand can be used in yards and gardens, with the empty bags being put into waste collection carts.

Mayor Ron Corbett addressed the news conference in a suit and tie this morning, rather than the more casual clothes he has worn this week.  He praised city officials and residents for pulling together to prepare for the flood.  Corbett says he believes there are two reasons this work has been successful, including memories of 2008.

“The scars in our minds will always be there,” Corbett said.

He says residents also have a great deal of pride in the community, and in its recovery since the 2008 flood.

Corbett says going forward, the city will need to combine both flood mitigation to make flooding less likely, with flood protection, to permanently protect the city from the next flooding event.  He says another flood will come one day, maybe next year and maybe decades from now, but it will happen.

Michael Leland is IPR's News Director