The Iowa Flood Center recently received $150,000 from the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, according to KCRG. The IFC also received $30,000 from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The network’s service provider is phasing-out the previously used technology, according to KCRG, so the funding will provide new modems and data plans to keep the sensors running.
The Iowa Department of Transportation has also installed five new flood sensors along the Iowa-Nebraska state boundary, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported. Areas in both states along the Missouri River were devastated by floods last spring. With elevated flood risk forecast for this year, the sensors could help Iowa and Nebraska officials coordinate disaster response.
A North Carolina mayor hopes to make his city more resilient against flooding following hurricanes using a method he learned from Iowa experts.
At the end of August, the Iowa Flood Center hosted a “flood resilience learning exchange” for 20 scientists, conservationists, farmers and officials from North Carolina communities impacted by devastating flooding from recent hurricanes. The two-day event featured talks from Iowan experts, a tour of Cedar Rapids’ flood infrastructure and a visit to a farm implementing such strategies.
News source kinston.com reported this week that Mayor Dontario Hardy of Kinston, North Carolina had been advocating for increased funding for flood resiliency projects since attending the event almost two months ago.
In just the past few years, Kinston–located along the Neuse River– faced widespread flooding after Hurricanes Matthew (2016) and Florence (2018). Though the Iowa Watershed Approach was not developed with hurricanes in mind, the basic concept–implementing conservation practices on land that will reduce the speed at which precipitation enters and floods our waterways– can apply to all types of flooding.
The Iowa Flood Center will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Thursday, June 13 at the C. Maxwell Stanley Hydraulics Laboratory from 8:30 am to 4 pm. The Iowa Flood Center invites friends, partners, and the public to take part in a day-long celebration to celebrate this ten year milestone. The day’s events include; presentations, tours, hands-on activities and more.
Social Hour and Flood Panel Discussion at the Big Grove Brewery
A social hour and flood panel discussion will take place starting at 4:30 pm at the Big Grove Brewery. The flood panel will be moderated by Erin Jordan, a Cedar Rapids Gazette investigative reporter.
The event panelists include:
• Wiltold Krajewski: One of the world’s most respected experts in rainfall monitoring and forecasting using radar and satellite remote sensing. He is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa College of Engineering and faculty research engineer at IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering.
• Larry Weber:Co-founder of the Iowa Flood Center and former director of IIHR. He is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa.
• Rob Hogg:State senator from Cedar Rapids, Iowa that represents portions of southwest, southeast and northeast Cedar Rapids. Senator Hogg has worked alongside legislators to pass legislation to assist Iowans with flood recovery and investing in flood protection, as well as helping establish the Iowa Flood Center.
• Rick Wulfekuhle: Buchanan County emergency management coordinator since 1997. Wulfekuhle has coordinated 14 Presidential Disaster Declarations and is passionate about bringing awareness to flood safety and procedures.
The panelist will gather to talk and share their knowledge and ideas about the recent floods affecting the Midwest and how the Iowa Food Center is helping the communities become better prepared for more flooding.
The Flood Recovery Advisory Board, formed by Governor Reynolds to coordinate statewide recovery and rebuilding following this year’s devastating floods, will gain expertise from Larry Weber, a co-founder of the Iowa Flood Center.
Dr. Weber can offer valuable experience and insights in several areas related to flooding. He is a former director of IIHR Hydroscience & Engineering at the University of Iowa, conducting research in areas including river hydraulics, hydropower, ice mechanics, water quality and watershed processes.
Weber also conducts research for the UI Public Policy Center and worked with the state legislature in 2013 to implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. He and his wife have won several awards for conservation work on their own property.
Recently, he wrote an op-ed about his vision as leader of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s $96 million Iowa Watershed Approach. This program addresses factors that contribute to Iowa’s increasing flood risk in nine distinct watersheds, with the ultimate goals of reducing risk, improving water quality and increasing resilience.
In the piece, Weber said he aims to restore natural resiliency through conservation measures like farm ponds, wetlands and terraces. Floodplain restoration is another important piece of his plan.
“We need to allow our rivers room to flood,” he said. “The floodplain is an integral, natural part of the river. They also keep people safe and remove us from the heartbreaking cycle that so many Iowans know all too well: Lose everything to a flood.”
His expertise in all-things-flooding, from hydraulics to conservation to policy, will surely prove valuable as Iowa begins to move forward from this year’s floods and better prepare for flooding to come.
Citizens of Iowa know that with heavy rainfall comes flooding. The last few weeks of rain have served as a very real reminder around the state.
The Iowa Flood Center is a great source of information on current, forecasted and potential floods. Their Iowa Flood Information System in particular offers tools for researchers, city planners, and even for concerned or curious private citizens.
At first glance, the IFIS may seem overwhelming. Fortunately for the everyday user, the IFIS homepage includes a tutorial video and links to some of the most universally useful features of the system. These basic tools can be layered with additional information like rainfall, national parks and zip code boundaries, if users so choose.
The Inundation Maps feature shows current conditions at IFS water sensors . Zoom in on a selected area of the state and click on a blue “USGS” box along the water to view the water level at that sensor. Click “More Info” to view the level over time. You can play with the slider in the panel to the right to see how higher or lower water levels would affect your community.
The Flood Alertsfeature shows flood alerts at different stages, from “action” to “major” across the state. Clicking on the triangular alert symbols pulls up the same information about water level that the Inundation Maps feature does.
The River Communitiesfeature dots the state with purple squares representing communities near rivers. Clicking on each will pull up information about future flood outlook and put a border around the upstream watershed so users can see what may be headed their way.
Use these tools during current and future flood hazards to stay informed, keep safe, or simply marvel at the power of nature and technology.
Flooding has cost Iowa communities more than $18 billion in the last thirty years, and as the Mississippi and Cedar Rivers continue to swell this spring, Iowans may wonder how much they can expect to pay out on flood disasters in the future.
In recent years, scholars at the Iowa Flood Center have been working to predict just that. HAZUS, developed by the the Federal Emergency Management Agency, provides predictions of the economic impact various magnitudes and types of natural disasters might have across the United States. During 2017, Research Engineer and Assistant Professor Ibrahim Demir and graduate research assistant Enes Yildirim, combined HAZUS’ information on demographics, buildings and structural content with data from the Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS).
As a result, IFIS now offers flood loss and economic damage estimations for twelve communities in the state. These include Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Iowa City, Independence, Kalona, Monticello, Ottumwa, Rock Rapids, Rock Valley, and Waterloo. HAZUS’ model makes it possible for users to not only view the overall economic damages to a community but also how much in damages individual buildings can be expected to accrue.
Iowa Flood Center researchers are working to expand this predictive model to other parts of the state. For now, users can use the following guide to learn more about the financial consequences of flooding in any of the aforementioned communities.
In episode 7 of EnvIowa, we sit down with Dr. Larry Weber to learn more about the Iowa Watershed Approach. Dr. Weber is a UI professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of IIHR–Hydroscience and Engineering, which is the parent organization of the Iowa Flood Center.
Dr. Weber explains how the $96.9 million project came to be and how it improves quality of life for Iowans while protecting our natural resources and health. He tells of successes the Iowa Flood Center has had with its flood reduction and water quality improvement programs and discusses the organization’s fight to maintain state-funding earlier this year.
The director and his team work many long days and spend hours each week driving around the state to each of the nine watersheds included in the Iowa Watershed Approach. For Dr. Weber, his work’s motivation is clear. He said,
“As an Iowan, I grew up here, I’ve worked and spent my whole career here, and I plan to retire here. I want a livable state in which we can enjoy our water and natural resources, enjoy being in the outdoors, enjoy interacting with the rivers, lakes and streams of Iowa, and, you know, programs like the Iowa Watershed Approach, I think, are vital to the long-term sustainability of our resources in Iowa.”
The EnvIowa podcast is also available on iTunes and Soundcloud, a complete archive of EnvIowa episodes can be found here.
BAMS is the flagship publication of the American Meteorological Society. The bulletin, which is released monthly, features scientific articles related to weather, water, and climate as well as news stories and editorials.
Witold Krajewski, the Iowa Flood Center’s director, is lead author on the article featured in BAMS. Titled “Real-Time Flood Forecasting and Information System for the State of Iowa,” the academic article provides a detailed understanding of the Iowa Flood Center’s (IFC) flood forecasting and information dissemination system.
IFC established the system following the record floods of 2008. Using scientific models and mathematical equations, the Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS) is able to provide rainfall and streamflow forecasts every fifteen minutes. Iowans from over 1,000 communities can access these real-time observations using the interactive IFIS web platform.
Prior to the development of this system, floods frequently occurred without warning in Iowa, as they did in 2008. The report reads,
“Devastating floods that inundated Cedar Rapids came as a surprise, leaving residents and businesses little time to evacuate; residents of Iowa City and the University of Iowa campus watched helplessly as floods compromised more and more buildings after the Coralville Dam lost its controlled-release functionality. Overall, the 2008 flood upended countless lives and livelihoods and caused between $8 billion and $10 billion in damages—at the time, the fifth-largest disaster in the history of the United States.”
Nine years later, the IFC is now able to consistently measures rainfall every five minutes across the state, and Iowans can have peace of mind heading into the rainy summer months.
The Iowa legislature has amended its 2018 budget proposal to restore $1.2 million in funding to the Iowa Flood Center.
The 2018 fiscal year budget plan was released earlier this week. The education spending bill proposed by Republicans included $20 million in cuts and originally featured a $1.5 million decrease in funding for the flood center. Wednesday evening the House Appropriations committee reinstated 2018 funding for the flood center by transferring $950,000 out of general appropriations to the University of Iowa and another $250,000 from a National Guard educational assistance program.
Representative Ashley Hinson, a Republican from Marion, worked as a news anchor, reporter and producer for KCRG-TV9 in Cedar Rapids during the 2008 floods. He said, “I do know the value of the Flood Center to Cedar Rapids and Linn County, and immediately started having those conversations about its importance to our area specifically with our budget chairs and other appropriations committee members.”
“The solution we found was based on trying to balance our priorities with a tough budget year,” responded Hinson. He added, “It was also my understanding that the Flood Center was a ‘priority’ for the University of Iowa, which is why we felt it appropriate to essentially have them share in funding it. I’m happy we were able to find a solution within our current budget constraints.”
The Iowa Legislature released a budget proposal on Tuesday that would effectively close down the Iowa Flood Center at the University of Iowa.
The proposed budget cuts would eliminate $1.5 million in state funding for the Iowa Flood Center (IFC), which was established by the legislature shortly after floods devastated much of eastern Iowa in 2008.
Dave Wilson is Johnson County Emergency Manager. He said, “Before the floods of 2008, it was hard to communicate the risk to the public in a form they can understand. Pulling the funding for that project would be shortsighted. I’m kind of shocked they are even considering it.”
Slashed funding would mean that the center’s Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS) would also be shut down, according to a statement by IFC’s co-directors Larry Weber and Witold Krajewski. IFIS is an online tool that provides free, user-friendly access to “flood alerts and flood forecasts, more than 250 IFC real-time river and stream gauge sensors, more than 50 soil moisture/temperature sensors, flood inundation maps for 22 Iowa communities and rainfall products for the entire state.”
The center is also in the middle putting a $96 million federal grant to use through the Iowa Watershed Approach. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Disaster Resilience grant is currently funding flood mitigation and water quality improvement projects in nine Iowa watersheds.
State Representative Art Staed of Cedar Rapids serves on the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s Flood Mitigation Board. Staed said, “We have repeatedly witnessed the devastating impact that floods have on our Iowa communities and it’s our responsibility as state lawmakers to work with local communities to minimize and mitigate flooding and the resulting damage to life and property.”
The proposed budget would not decrease funding for K-12 education, which is expected receive a 1.1 percent budget increase this year. However, it does eliminate $397,000 in state funding for the Iowa State University Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.