After major flooding swept through Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 2008, city officials and residents learned preparation is key to reducing damage and saving lives. That is why swift action was taken in September 2016 after the National Weather Service predicted the Cedar River would crest at 23 feet—7 feet above what is considered major flood stage.
One week prior to the anticipated peak flood day, Cedar Rapids’ city engineer Nate Kampman contacted County Materials Corporation’s facility in Iowa City to discuss potential needs for flood protection. County Materials’ Location Manager, Bryan Rempt, remembers, “The city engineer was concerned about floodwater overwhelming the sewer system and temporary levies. If it became necessary, he was asking our company to provide manhole risers and cones that could be placed as barriers over street manholes.”
Early Sunday morning, two days before the forecasted peak water level, Rempt received another call from Kampman. “The city engineer said the water levels were rising, so the materials were needed immediately,” said Rempt.
Rempt, along with County Materials’ Operations Manager Randy Weber, and Foreman Raul Rios quickly mobilized, sending 11 loads of concrete materials, including 60” diameter manholes and cones as well as 48” diameter manholes and cones. County Materials’ teams were loading and sending materials from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. that day in efforts to beat the rising floodwaters.
On Tuesday, September 20th the Cedar River crested at 22 feet, 1 foot less then what was forecasted, yet 6 feet above major flood stage. By that time, more than 250,000 sand bags had been stacked to create temporary walls and levees. Nearly 10,000 people had evacuated and 400 National Guard troops were called in. When floodwaters began receding, city officials reported that the precautions put in place appeared to help prevent most of the expected damage, with the exception of a few flooded buildings and basements closest to the river.
Kampman was appreciative of the efforts made by County Materials to deliver materials on such short notice. No lives were lost and no major injuries were reported. The preparation by city officials, along with willingness from local residents and businesses to work with emergency groups, was instrumental in saving the city of Cedar Rapids from what could have been a terrible disaster.