By Shianne Gruss, IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering
Citizens of Independence can now access online maps that show how flooding events are likely to affect their community, homes, and businesses. Independence is one of 14 Iowa cities to be part of the Iowa Flood Center’s (IFC) community-based flood inundation mapping project.
“We’ve been moving through and trying to [map] most of the major communities located on rivers in Iowa,” says Dan Gilles, IFC water resources engineer. He says the team surveys a few cities each year.
The project, which is in its sixth year, provides select Iowa communities with online access to real-time flood information. The maps live on the Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS), an interactive Google-maps based tool. Sliders allow users to view the extent of flooding at various river flood stages.
A major reason Independence was selected, says Gilles, was because of its recent flooding history. In 2013, the Wapsipinicon River was expected to crest at an all-time high after six inches of rain fell in the area overnight, but it surprisingly crested just two feet above flood stage.
“When a situation like that happens, community members are always wondering how high the water is going to get and whether they need to evacuate,” says Gilles. While the maps do not improve the forecast, they do improve the ability of the IFC to communicate what will happen during a flood event.
Situated along the fifth largest river in Iowa (excluding the Missouri and Mississippi) and near a dam, Independence is prone to flooding. “Usually communities are a lot more willing to go through this process of creating maps if they’ve found a need for them,” says Gilles.
Local emergency management personnel definitely see the need and have supported the project from the beginning. Rick Wulfekuhle, Buchanan County emergency management coordinator, says the maps could help different emergency services respond appropriately to a flood event with their distinct resources.
The IFC will present the project at the Independence City Council meeting on Monday, April 13.
The Iowa Flood Center is part of IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, a unit of the UI College of Engineering. The IFC was created in 2009 in the aftermath of the historic 2008 Iowa floods and is supported by state appropriations to improve flood monitoring and prevention in Iowa.