Iowa Flood Center unveils new online flood mapping system


 

Witold Krajewki, Iowa Flood Center director, unveils the center's new online flood information system to reporters at the State Capitol on March 23, 2011. Photo by Jim Malewitz.

On Wednesday – when fears of record flooding brought the all-too-familiar site of sandbags back to Davenport – the Iowa Flood Center unveiled an online system that will help Iowans to better understand the risks and the impacts of future floods.

Flood information is available to the public online via an interactive Google Maps-based application

At the state Capitol, the center formally introduced its high-resolution flood inundation map of Des Moines, which it has produced along with maps of Cedar Rapids, Charles City, Hills, Iowa City and Waterloo. The maps make up just one component of an system that offers an array of easy-to-access information.

Other flood-prone states may look to the first-of-its kind project.

Bill Stow, Des Moines public works director, said the the project will help state and and city officials, as well as property owners, make informed decisions about how future floods may affect property.

Iowa Flood Center researcher Dan Ceynar proudly displays a stream stage censor that he helped design. The Iowa Flood Center has installed 55 under bridges across the state, and it hopes to do add to that number. Photo by Jim Malewitz.

“There’s a lot of data out there that indicates that we as Iowans face a greater risk of loss from flood than from fire,” he said.

“This process will better inform each of us…on risk – our ability to access it, our ability to predict it, our ability to insure against it.”

Sen. Matt McCoy – D, Des Moines, would agree. Had the technology been available earlier, he said, Cedar Rapids residents may prevented some of the damaged caused by the infamous floods of 2008, which they have yet to fully recover from.

Flood Center researchers use bathymetric surveys, supplemented by aerial LiDAR (laser radar) data of the riverbed, to determine the shape of the channel and the flood plains. With this information, researchers can create detailed maps of river corridors to illustrate where floodwaters will go under different upstream flow conditions.

McCoy said that the legislature’s roughly $1.8 million annual investment in the Iowa Flood Center has been well worth it.

“The Iowa Flood center has made tremendous strides in minimizing flood damage across the state,” he said. “I look forward to the day when all of the state is mapped.”

The center, still in the first year of the study, hopes to have mapped all 99 Iowa counties at the end of four years.

Listen to audio of the press conference.

More photos from the event

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About jmalewitz

Jim Malewitz is a journalism intern at the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research. Additionally, as a master's journalism student at the University of Iowa, he is conducting research on non-profit journalism while serving as an assistant editor at IowaWatch.org. Malewitz graduated from Grinnell College in 2009, where he majored in political science with a concentration in global development studies. He loves America, the states of Michigan and Iowa and Detroit Tigers baseball. He also an odd fascination with the former German Democratic Republic. He likes the environment too.
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