WATERLOO — Record rainfall in September mixed with record snowfall this winter has left some in the Cedar Valley eyeing streams warily as spring approaches.
Waterloo has surpassed the record snow total for February of 24.3 inches set in 1962.
“We’ve shattered (that record) by several inches now,” said meteorologist Kyle Kiel with KWWL-TV.
Fourteen inches of snow was reported on the ground Monday morning at the Waterloo Regional Airport, and the city’s snow total for the 2018-19 season sits at 57.1 inches, leaving us 2.3 inches away from the all-time snowiest winter in Waterloo, 59.4 inches, also set during the 1961-62 winter.
Cedar Falls native Jay Robertson was 8 years old during that winter and lived with his parents in the Cedar City area of North Cedar Falls. Cedar City encompasses the area north of the Cedar River, across Main Street and down Lincoln Street.
In early March 1962, similar to recent weather, rain mixed with several feet of snow already on the ground, creating a thick coat of ice topped off with more snow.
Soon the Cedar River rose above the old Highway 218 bridge, now Center Street, and washed out Island Park and many parts of North Cedar and other low-lying areas.
Water rushed into Robertson’s home through the windows, which had not happened before.
“My parents had not experienced winters like that,” Robertson said. “As a little kid I thought it was cool.”
The house was covered in mud, and many of his family’s belongings were washed away by the river. Some families in the area used boats to reach their homes.
“I’m sure we lost plenty. You didn’t have any place to take it to,” he said, noting two of his grandparents lived nearby and also were displaced.
In 1980, Robertson purchased his home on Cottage Row where he has lived nearly 40 years.
After major flooding in 1993, many Cedar Valley residents again were searching for higher ground, and Robertson began an addition to his house. New codes from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources required houses in the floodplain to elevate higher than the level of a 200-year flood. He complied.
Major flooding in 2008 again sent Robertson and hundreds of folks packing for several weeks as many homes and business were inundated and destroyed.
“They were right. … The old part of the house got water in it, and the addition was dry,” he said.
This winter, Robertson is uneasy about the potential for another major flood.
“I don’t want to go through that again,” he said. “If we get a heavy rain in early April, before the snow melts, we’ll have a good chance of a major flood.”
Mark Miller, Cedar Falls City councilperson for Ward 1, which includes North Cedar, encouraged having a plan in case of an emergency.
“Unfortunately, this conversation continues to come at much more frequent intervals than it used to. Having a flood plan is the key for anyone that lives in the floodplain, whether in North Cedar or near any waterway in Cedar Falls,” he said.
Miller recommends keeping an emergency flood plan that includes a list of flood insurance contact information; plans for evacuation, including when and where; and knowing where the electrical panel and furnace are located.
“Every flood is different in how the water moves both through and around the floodplain, which changes how quickly certain areas see water … the more prepared you are, the less stress the situation will cause,” he said.
To gauge flooding, go to https://www.noaa.gov/, and search for your area.
For information on flooding levels in Cedar Falls, go to https://www.cedarfalls.com/812/Flood-Information.
Inundation mapping is available through the Iowa Flood Center at https://iowafloodcenter.org/projects/flood-inundation-maps/.