CEDAR FALLS | Residents of Cedar Falls and Waterloo have gained a new tool in the fight against floods.
The National Weather Service and the Iowa Flood Center have developed an online library of interactive flood inundation maps for the Cedar River.
“It’s a good tool for our emergency response planning, and it helps people to predict what will be impacted,” said Cedar Falls City Engineer Randy Lorenzen.
The maps are available for the public to play with free of charge via two sources. The first is on the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service webpage. The second source is the Iowa Flood Center’s Iowa Flood Information System page.
Users can adjust the settings of the maps based on water levels, current and predicted, as well as historical crests to create models of different flooding scenarios.
Nathan Young is the associate director of the Iowa Flood Center, a research group based out of the University of Iowa’s College of Engineering created to help Iowans better understand flood risks. It is the nation’s first academic center devoted solely to the study of floods.
Young’s group has been developing flood inundation maps since the organization’s inception in 2009.
“This is an opportunity for us to apply research that is useful and meaningful for Iowans,” Young said. “These detailed maps demonstrate the extent of the flooded landscape with every 12-inch rise in the flood level. We believe this information will empower communities and individuals to make informed decisions about their flood risks.”
Cedar Falls City Planner Marty Ryan said the maps will prove useful for emergency planning and flood preparation.
“Public safety personnel and utilities service personnel can utilize these maps to assist with proper evacuation protocols when necessary or otherwise ensure that critical utility services are not compromised or cause any public safety concerns during flood events,” Ryan said
Waterloo has 20 miles of levees and flood walls, while Cedar Falls has 6,000 feet of earthen levees and flood walls protecting downtown from the Cedar River. The city plans to raise the levee system by two feet in the coming years. The flood inundation maps for Cedar Falls are based on observations and forecasts involving readings from the U.S. Geological Survey stream gauge along the Cedar River, and may have to be updated once the city completes its flood levee improvements.