Iowa Under Water

Remembering The Floods of 2008

June 9, 2009 - 9:04 AM

Six Days in JuneLots of remembering going on this week as we roll over the 1 year anniversary of the great Iowa floods of 2008. The Gazzette has set up a beautiful website called Six Days in June with lots of links and resources. The Iowa City Press Citizen is also running a series of stories (although it's a little more difficult to navigate this site and actually find the articles).

More first hand stories at Iowa Flood Stories.

Flood Outlook for 2009

March 9, 2009 - 7:28 PM

It's been some time since I last *had* to post on this blog. The recent deluge of rain this weekend got me thinking about this subject again. So, I checked some of the websites I watched last year as the waters rose and the rains continued to fall.

Coralville Reservoir Forecast

The blue is actual measured elevation of the water at the Coralville Reservoir, while the red is projected elevation. If the water tops the spilway crest, we are in trouble.

This weekend, the rain total was somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 inches and you can see the effect this had on the forecast water levels in the Coralville Reservoir in the image above. It's important to note that the current outflow from the Reservoir is still somewhat restricted. The Reservoir level is still higher now than it was last year at this time, while the Iowa River level is actually lower than last year.

So, will we see more flooding this year like we did in 2008? It's probably still too early to tell and it will mostly depend on how much it rains over the coming months. One thing I can tell you is that a lot of people got a little nervous watching all the water fall from the sky over the weekend.

Flood Waters Recede, Clean Up Begins

June 20, 2008 - 9:23 AM

Even though these floods have been a total disaster for thousands of homes and businesses around here, I can't deny that it was just a little bit exciting to watch this event unfold. While my heart goes out to all the people who have lost property and businesses, it was a little bit like living in an action movie for a time. Seeing everyone go into emergency mode was thrilling.

Flooded Apartment

As I see the clean up side of things approaching, I can't find anything to get excited about. It's just one huge stinky, slimy mess. Driving to work today, I actually saw dry ground on many of the roads that were closed. Some parts of town are beginning to open up again. However, along with that is a whole lot of dust, dirt and mud. I think it's going to be months before some people get back into their places and undoubtedly some of them are going to be demolished.

Carpet SteamerA good friend of mine, Robert Olinger, runs a Water Damage and Carpet Cleaning business in Iowa City and Coralville called Carpet Steamer. Like us, he is actually seeing an increase in business during this time as he helps people get cleaned up. Robert had been stocking up on new fans and industrial dehumidifiers over the past few months to expand his water damage business, and by some fortune was well prepared to serve the community in the aftermath of this event.

It's been interesting to see the stark contrast between businesses who lost out during the floods and others who prospered. I'm really hoping and praying that we'll all be able to come through this on the other side.


I Saw President Bush's Helicopters!

June 19, 2008 - 10:54 PM

Marine 1After meeting Bill Clinton at Capanna Coffee earlier this year, I thought that was my once in a life time experience to meet the President of the United States face to face (his hands were very soft - a little too soft). While that may be the case, I was thinking that I might have another chance today when I heard that President Bush was just down the street from where I was working. We actually decided to drive down that direction after our job was finished, but when we got out in the parking lot, I saw four huge helicopters take off from somewhere over the trees.

These were some large helicopters. It looked like there were actually two lead copters and two giant blue and white copters that you usually see the president coming in and out of on the news. He was here today touring the flood waters in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.

I'll be looking for my chance to meet President Obama next (oh wait - is the election over yet?)

Crazy Day for Us IT People

June 17, 2008 - 6:03 PM

The pace here at my business Cramer IT has been insane today. I feel like I can barely keep up with the phone calls much less actually do support for the people calling. We have had a ton of new potential clients call today including some amazing requests for help.

My two favorite calls today where:

1. A new client called today who had been flooded out of their building, and had setup shop at a house. They couldn't figure out why they couldn't get to their shared network files at the house. Upon further discussion, they realized that while they have removed their computers from their flooded office, they had managed to leave their file server at their flooded location (which is currently under an estimated 8 ft of water). That's right, in the confusion of evacuation, they left their file server at their flooded office. They are now discussing how they can get into their office to recover the server.

2. Another client moved out of his flooded office and while re-setting up his computer at his house thought he needed to reinstall Windows XP Service Pack 2 on his pc. He grabbed his Windows XP disk and proceeded to format and reinstall Windows XP on his computer erasing all his current data. We are trying a data recovery on his hard drive now...

Both of these people where so far off the flood plain, they had never even considered a flood evacuation plan.  In the insanity and stress of moving and making decisions on the fly some crazy stuff can and will happen.

Links to Recovery Assistance

June 17, 2008 - 5:43 PM

Here are a couple links I heard about today for those who need assistance from FEMA or local help

Online Application for FEMA assistance

Corridor Recover--a local site dedicated to the recovery effort




You Can't Just Sit There

June 17, 2008 - 2:09 PM

With water coming up as high as 7 or 8 feet in Coralville, many sandbagging efforts now seem futile. But you can't just sit there, you've got to do something while the water is slowly rising all around you. The sandbag wall pictured below is actually a lot taller than it looks.

Submerged Sandbags

There were also several instances when sandbagging when sandbagging plans would change that would render an entire huge wall obsolete. While sandbagging at the Marriot one night, I remember coming upon a very nicely laid sandbag wall about 20 feet out from the building. Obviously, a large crew of people had spent considerable time building what they thought was the best wall only to have our crew come along and systematically disassemble it and reassemble it elsewhere. There was also a 6 - 7 foot tall wall made around the entire parking lot of the Convention Center that became obsolete as the waters rose.

Iowa River Power Restaurant

One aspect of these walls is that they may become useful again as the water recedes to form a barrier to keep water out with pumping. This could speed the recovery process, so not all was lost in some cases.

Report from Iowa City Manger Regarding Flood Levels

June 16, 2008 - 11:56 AM

pan>Flood Update: Report from the Corps of Engineers; 6/16/08

Posted by: City Manager

Originally Posted 6/16/2008 11:25:22 AM

Although it appears the worst of the damage has already occurred, please keep in mind that this flood is far from over and residents on the periphery of flooded areas should be prepared for evacuation should conditions change.

The projected 5-day forecast is quite favorable for this area and to the north. However, residents should be aware that local rains and water from local creeks can affect all these projections and a sense of preparedness still needs to prevail in the community.

Army Corps of Engineers staff reported current and projected conditions at the Coralville Reservoir on Monday morning, June 16. Current outflow is 38,500 cubic feet per second (cfs). As projected, the lowering of the Reservoir is a slow and prolonged event.

Barring significant rainfall, the Corps projects the following flows from the Reservoir:
• 35,000 cfs on Thursday, June 19
• 30,000 cfs on Saturday, June 21
• 25,000 cfs on Monday, June 23
• 20,000 cfs on Wednesday, June 25
• The outlet will remain wide open until the pool elevation drops to 707.
• After that the Corps will manage the outflow to limit the drop in reservoir pool elevation no more than 1 foot per day to limit erosion.

Peak stage in Iowa City was 31.53 feet at 6:30 a.m., June 15, 2008, with a flow of approximately 40,800 cfs. Current stage in Iowa City is 31.3 feet.

Crazy Day

June 16, 2008 - 10:43 AM

So far conditions have been good.  Clear Creek which is behind our office is definitely down.  We seem to be in the clear baring a major rain storm  Our phones have gone nuts today  We are supervising multiple server migrations   Some people have been cleared to get back into their original offices  Both Qwest and Mediacom have had internet issues today, and people keep looking for solutions to get internet and phone service ASAP  We are up to our ears in wireless internet installs to provide temporary service for clients  You will probably see a drop in posts today as a result of the craziness.

Optimism vs. Pessimism

June 15, 2008 - 10:34 PM


It does appear that the Iowa River has crested for now. I visited some Coralville flood sites today and found evidence that waters have gone down (mainly a line of trash and drying patches of land). On the radio I heard that a levee broke south of here and this contributed to some water levels sinking faster than predicted. We stayed mainly dry today, so we had good opportunity to dry and drain.


I talked with a Flood of '93 vet today, and he told me that there were actually 3 floods in '93 with the 3rd one being the worst. We are actually at the beginning of the flood season with much more rain likely during the summer months. As saturated as the grounds is--it will be more easy reach high levels again this summer.

Network Update

June 15, 2008 - 10:24 PM
The Cramer IT Wireless Internet network is fully operational and our offices are not at risk of flooding. The only outages that we have are from clients who have evacuated due to flooding. We are able to deliver internet service almost anywhere in town. For anyone who would like to get online for a few moments, we have free WiFi hotspots at Capanna Coffee in downtown Iowa City and in Coralville. They also serve coffee there (bonus!).

Working While Wet

June 15, 2008 - 10:05 PM

With standing water at it's highest point and many roads closed, the citizens of Iowa City and Coralville will attempt to go back to work tomorrow. Things have calmed down quite a bit this weekend and travel was actually quite lite on the reduced number of available roads. Officials were advising people to travel only when necessary, which is what we all did on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, however, travel becomes necessary if you want to make a living. Most businesses will attempt to resume some form of operation tomorrow if at all possible.

As I mentioned before, we've already helped a number of businesses relocate on Thursday and Friday. I expect more of the same starting tomorrow. I already know of several that we are going to need to provide technical assistance to in order to get them operational. Some have lost internet services over the weekend, while others were only able to physically move equipment at the end of last week, let alone hook it all up and make it work.

We also have several employees that live in Cedar Rapids and work down here in Iowa City. They will be attempting to make the trip down through some kind of detour. At last estimate, the detour made the once 25 minute drive into a 4 hour trip (one way).

This should be a Monday like none other.

Coralville Dam Spillway at Crest

June 15, 2008 - 9:45 PM

Here is a video of the Coralville Dam spillway at about 716.93 ft above sea level. The crest was 717 ft (just .07 feet above this). This is as high as it has ever been in the Dam's 50+ year history. It is roughly 5 feet above the spillway and this flow is in addition to the 20,000 CFS maximum output at the tailwaters just to the upper right of where this video was shot.

You can see more of my videos on my YouTube page.

Photo Tour - June 15

June 15, 2008 - 9:42 PM

We've been uploading photos to a Flickr Group called "Iowa Under Water". Feel free to add your photos if you have any. Although the Reservoir has crested, standing water around the area is holding steady at an all time high. The water is not yet receding. Here are some photos uploaded today:

Spillway at Crest

Coralville Dam Spillway at Crest

Ducks on 1st Ave in Coralville


Our Bank

We have a safety deposit box inside there.

Our Bank - Wells Fargo

Highway 6

This photo by the Streeters - thanks guys!

Hwy 6

You can see more on our Photos Page.

"The Coralville Reservoir has crested"

June 15, 2008 - 2:48 PM

Most media outlets are now giving this report. It is based on a meeting the Army Corp had with the city of Iowa City.  They are saying the Res crested at exactly 717 ft overnight.  Looking at the Res on the Corps site--it does look very good.  Current levels are at 716.96.  What is very important to factor in is both rain and inflow to the reservoir.  It has rained a little here today--in fact currenty there is only about 1.5 inches predicted for the area in the next 5 days.  As far as inflow is concerned, immediate up from the res looks good for now, however there does seem to be some increses up the river a way.  Here is the link to watch the river levels above and below reservoir. According the site, it looks like there is still a change the water creeps a little over 717 by a few tenth of an inch.

 The other thing for us Iowa City folks to think about right now is that while the river may have crested at the reservoir, it is still a couple days from cresting around here.  So expect some increase here for the next day or two.  Still, glad to see that we may actually be seeing water go down sometime soon!