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10 Year Anniversary of the Devastating Floods in Eastern Iowa

15 Jun 2018, 8:16 am

[Third Avenue in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, June 13th, 2008 under water. From Matt Herzberger via Flickr CC 2.0]

Wednesday marked the 10 year anniversary of the devastating floods that hit eastern Iowa in 2008. The culmination of many above normal to record meteorological factors, from the winter of 2007-2008 through the spring of 2008, led to the historic flooding. Cedar Rapids and Iowa City experienced the most significant flooding.

The 2007-2008 winter was particularly severe in northeast Iowa, with a heavy snow cover that persisted in many areas until early spring rains. From the last week in April, the state experienced heavy rain, particularly in the form of thunderstorms, which saturated the soils. Late May and early June was also extremely wet, which contributed to the flooding.

On June 13, 2008, flood waters in Cedar Rapids climbed to 31.12 feet along the Cedar River. More than 5,000 homes took on damage and nearly a 1,000 businesses were also hit by the destructive waters. City-wide, 1,400 homes and businesses were lost, especially in the downtown and northwest neighborhoods. 10 square miles, or 14 percent, of the city was under water. Amazingly, no lives were lost to it. Damage estimates were near $6 billion dollars.

[Map showing areas of Cedar Rapids under water from the 2008 floods, along the Cedar River.]

In Iowa City, the Iowa River rose to 31.5 feet. Coralville Lake had waters flowing over its emergency spillway, hitting a record breaking crest of 717.02 feet. About 500 households in Iowa City and 300 in nearby Coralville were evacuated, plus dozens of businesses. Around 800 homes and 260 businesses were damaged in Iowa City, Coralville and rural Johnson County. There were over 6 million sandbags filled in Johnson County, a national record, more than were filled during Hurricane Katrina.

[Flooding along the Iowa river in downtown in Iowa City and along the University of Iowa from 2008. Image from NWS Quad Cities]

[Art Building West (foreground) and Art Building (background) during the Iowa Flood of 2008. From Craigdietrich via CC 3.0]

For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Mace Michaels