First of, I want to say some in the media have done a good and accurate job in explaining what high risks for flooding really mean. No matter what there will always be people who hear the word flood and think of 2008. That is our personal history, one that will never be forgotten.
I was in Mason City the night it rained severe inches in June, sparking the great flood. I was in Vinton when a second round only made rivers already forecast to set records even worse. And I was in Downtown Cedar Rapids when the bridges were closed, water spilled into the city and thousands were forced out of their homes.
What I’m trying to say is I saw first hand, from start to finish, what a monumental and life changing event 2008 was. It is something that should never be forgotten and we should all prepare for the threat it could happen again.
With that in mind, this is NOT 2008. And threats of major flooding do not mean a repeat. It’s that simple. Of course flooding of that magnitude could happen again, but melting snow and a wet ground will not be the cause. What is lost because of the 2008 flood and the EF-5 tornado that year, was the flooding that occurred in April.
After a long and near record breaking winter, all that snow melted quickly, flooding many parts of eastern Iowa. That snow melt caused major flooding in many areas, including Cedar Rapids.
So why don’t we remember the major flooding of April 2008? Because major flooding occurs frequently. Unfortunately this is something lost in the terminology used by the National Weather Service. While the 16 feet river level in Cedar Rapids reported in late April is considered “major” flooding, it does little to affect the city.
Major flooding does impact some parts of eastern Iowa and should always be taken seriously. But for decades Cedar Rapids has protected it from this kind of flooding. Of course the high river level left in the wake of this April flood put the region in a vulnerable position. Mother nature took advantage of that vulnerability with several rounds of heavy rain in May and June.
What I’m getting at is none of the forecasts out today say anything about 2008 and no one should fear that is about to happen again. Could it? Of course. Is it likely? Never. Between the snow, the April floods, the May and June rains and the June flash flooding, 2008 was the perfect storm and eastern Iowa was in the crosshairs.
So as we move into the spring months, which are usually some of the rainiest of the year, the flood of 2008 is always something that will linger in the back of our heads, but it’s not something that we should feel will happen over and over again.
For me, I am turning my attention to severe weather, Oklahoma was a good reminder that although off to a slow start, hail, wind and tornadoes are not too far away from eastern Iowa. It’s only a matter of time before the first severe storms reach eastern Iowa… and we’ll be there.