Iowa flooding: Thousands evacuate Cedar Rapids
By Max Blau
Updated 8:40 AM ET, Tue September 27, 2016
Drone video captures devastating Iowa floods 01:50
More than 10,000 residents have evacuated
Iowa's National Guard has deployed more than 400 soldiers
(CNN)Thousands of Iowans are taking no chances in advance of what could be one of the worst floods in the state's history.
For days, the rising waters of rivers and creeks in eastern Iowa have forced more than 10,000 residents of Cedar Rapids, Iowa's second-largest city, out of their homes and businesses.
The flood, the worst Cedar Rapids has witnessed since 2008, comes on the heels of a fatal Wisconsin flood after heavy rains hit the area last week.
Greg Buelow, the city of Cedar Rapids' public safety coordinator, said he's watching the clock as it approaches 7 a.m. That's the time he said the Cedar River is set to crest -- holding at 23 feet for another six hours. It's now considered the second-worst flood the area has ever seen, according to CNN affiliate KGAN.
"The next several hours are going to be critical," Buelow said.
Parts of Iowa faced flood warnings this week after heavy rains hit the state.
From 8 p.m. Monday night to 7 a.m. Tuesday morning, Cedar Rapids residents faced a curfew restricting their access around the town. According to Wayne Jerman, the city's police chief, the curfew will likely remain in effect every night until the Cedar River's levels have receded.
Before the curfew, Buelow said city employees and volunteers had tried to mitigate damage from the flooding. Last weekend volunteers pitched in to help lay sandbags and clear out the first floor of Taylor Elementary School.
However, Buelow warned that people were still under significant risk if they did not abandon the area. According to CNN affiliate KGAN, rescuers already saved one woman who got swept away in the flood waters Monday.
"The temporary flood protection systems have held to this point; however, there are no guarantees," Buelow said. "We are still strongly encouraging people to evacuate."
Around Cedar Rapids, the Iowa National Guard had deployed more than 400 soldiers who are there to help people leave their neighborhoods and make it to evacuation points, Col. Greg Hapgood said. Residents were advised to pack their belongings, medications, and their personal ID before leaving their homes.
For those who chose to stay, the Iowa Red Cross has opened two shelters, where they intend to accept residents in need.
Interstate 80 still remains open to motorists. The Iowa Department of Transportation planned to closely monitor for flooding throughout the night.
Facing the flood
Volunteers and city workers place sandbags along the dike between the Cedar River and the water treatment plant in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. Authorities in several Iowa cities were mobilizing resources Friday to handle flooding from a rain-swollen river that has forced evacuations in several communities upstream, while a Wisconsin town was recovering from storms. (Brandon Pollock/The Courier via AP)
Over three days last week, upward of 10 inches of rain pummeled parts of eastern Iowa and western Wisconsin, CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar said.
One Wisconsin resident died after a mudslide destroyed a home, according to CNN affiliate WEAU-TV. Another person lost his life after attempting to drive through flood waters close to his home, the station reported.
Because of the flooding, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declared disaster emergencies for 13 counties, a move that would loosen up cash from the state's coffers for the response effort.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad took similar action in an effort to help other cities affected by the flood. During a visit to Clarksville, he watched people lay 180,000 sandbags and 4,300 linear feet of flood barriers, all of which was delivered by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
In addition, several other Iowa cities including Charles City and Waterloo remain on edge in the face of potential flooding.
Though all eyes remained on Cedar Rapids Tuesday, the National Weather Service has already extended flood warnings through this upcoming Sunday. Early Tuesday morning, the Cedar River had continued to rise steadily toward its projected crest at 23 feet, according to CNN Weather.
According to Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, residents who left the city should not expect to have access to downtown Cedar Rapids until this weekend.
For residents like Heidi McKay, whose family was around for the city's worst flood back in 2008, they weren't taking chances.
"We're better prepared now," she told CNN affiliate KGAN. "We decided that, no matter what, we were taking everything this time. We were not going to put anything upstairs. It was all coming out."