September 27, 2016 / 7:00 AM / 3 years ago

Iowa city flood prevention system holds back Cedar River

(Reuters) - A sprawling network of flood barricades erected in Iowa’s second-largest city of Cedar Rapids largely succeeded in holding back water from the rain-swollen Cedar River, city officials said on Tuesday.

Around 5,800 homes and businesses were at risk of flooding in an evacuation zone along the river, as the city braced for what officials said could have been the second worst flood in the city’s history.

Public Works Director Jen Winter said that the Cedar River, which winds its way through the city, had crested at just over 22 feet (7 m) on Tuesday morning and was receding.

Mayor Ron Corbett said that he felt confident the worst of the flood danger had passed with minimal impact, though he cautioned there was still some risk until the river reached its normal level again, which is expected later this week.

“Tomorrow we’ll wake up on the winning side,” Corbett told residents and members of the media on Tuesday.

One person was rescued from the river on Monday, according to Cedar Rapids Fire Chief Mark English.

The National Guard was deployed to the area to aid evacuation efforts and man traffic check points.

Officials in the city of about 126,000 said that nearly 10 miles (16 km) of temporary flood barricades and a quarter-million sandbags had been put in place by emergency crews and volunteers in recent days.

The city was looking to avoid a repeat of wide-spread flooding from June 2008, when the river crested at 31 feet (9 m), inundating as many as 5,400 homes and 700 businesses across an area of 10 square miles (26 sq km).

“In 2008 we felt defenseless. In 2016 we took action and mobilized. And rather than sit back and be defenseless, we defended ourselves,” Corbett said.

Corbett said Monday he expected residents would probably be able to return to homes and businesses in the evacuation area on Saturday.

Slideshow (4 Images)

Schools will stay closed until Thursday, authorities said.

Cedar Rapids was one of numerous sites across the Midwest suffering from heavy rainfall. Two fatalities in neighboring Wisconsin last week have been blamed on flooding in that state.

Rising water levels on the Mississippi River are likely to close three locks on the grain shipping waterway from southern Iowa to northern Missouri later this week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on Monday.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Alan Crosby

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