Cedar Valley Has New Tool in the Fight Against Floods Cedar Falls Courier,Published on: June 17th, 2014

New Flood Preparedness Tool for Waterloo, Cedar Falls

A dynamic, new online flood preparedness tool which will help emergency managers improve flood warnings and response has been developed for the Cedar River at Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Iowa.

The National Weather Service collaborated with the Iowa Flood Center to develop a library of flood inundation maps for the Cedar River.  The final version of these flood inundation maps are the culmination of a partnership between the Iowa Flood Center (IFC), the City of Cedar Falls, the City of Waterloo, the NOAA Central Region – Regional Collaboration Team and the National Weather Service (NWS).  This capability will help communicate the flood risks for areas along the Cedar River.

Because this new tool is so critical during floods, it is available from two sources.  The first source is the NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (AHPS) Web site.  On the AHPS pages for the Cedar River at Cedar Falls and Waterloo, click on the tab near the top of the page named “Inundation Mapping.”  The second source is the Iowa Flood Center’s Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS).  Go to the Flood Maps section on the right hand side of the page and select Cedar Falls or Waterloo.

Interactive flood maps for Waterloo and Cedar Falls are available on the Iowa Flood Information System. Similar maps are also available for 12 other Iowa communities.

Interactive flood maps for Waterloo and Cedar Falls are available on the Iowa Flood Information System. Similar maps are also available for 12 other Iowa communities.

Flood inundation maps help people visualize the potential extent of flooding at various river levels.  This information can assist in planning and mitigation decisions.

Dr. Nathan Young, Associate Director of the Iowa Flood Center, said the IFC has been developing flood inundation maps since the IFC’s inception in 2009.  “This is an opportunity for us to apply research that is useful and meaningful for Iowans,” he said. “These detailed maps demonstrate the extent of the flooded landscape with every twelve-inch rise in the flood level.  We believe this information will empower communities and individuals to make informed decisions about their flood risks.”

Jeff Zogg, Senior Hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Des Moines, said the development of the Cedar Falls flood inundation maps was a team effort which resulted in valuable tools for people in the Cedar Falls and Waterloo area.  “Many people worked together to make these maps available.  We especially appreciate the involvement of local community officials in Cedar Falls and Waterloo.  These maps will help the NWS provide enhanced decision support services to people there.”

Marty Ryan, Cedar Falls City Planner, echoes those sentiments as applied to Cedar Falls.  “Public safety personnel and utilities service personnel can utilize these maps to assist with proper evacuation protocols when necessary or otherwise ensure that critical utility services are not compromised or cause any public safety concerns during flood events.”

Jamie Knutson, Waterloo Flood Engineer said that the flood inundation maps will be valuable for multiple reasons.  “The flood inundation maps will allow for better long range planning and allow for better decision making early on in the flood for which areas may need to be evacuated.  This will be a nice addition to our flood fighting tools.”

The National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories.  The National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and to enhance the national economy.  The NWS provides decision support services as well as enhanced services to local, state, and regional decision makers.  For other locations where flood inundation maps are available see the National Weather Service AHPS Web site.

The Iowa Flood Center is part of IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, a research institute based at the University of Iowa’s College of Engineering.  The IFC provides accurate, state-of-the-science-based information to help Iowans better understand their flood risks.  It is the nation’s first academic center devoted solely to the study of floods.  Additional IFC resources—including flood inundation maps for other Iowa communities—can be found on the Iowa Flood Center Web site.

The City of Cedar Falls has critical river levees protecting the downtown area, the City wastewater treatment plant and Cedar Falls Utilities.  The City will upgrade its downtown levee next year to increase the flood protection level.  More information about the City of Cedar Falls and its departments can be found on the City of Cedar Falls Web site.

The Cedar Falls flood inundation maps are based on observations and forecasts involving readings from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) stream gage along the Cedar River at Cedar Falls.  More information about USGS streamgaging in Iowa is available on the USGS Iowa Water Science Center Web site.

The City of Waterloo has 20 miles of levees and flood walls to help protect its citizens from the Cedar River.  In order to operate the levee system, a number of different City departments are involved during a flood including Engineering, Public Works, Waste Management, Leisure Services, Police and Fire.  More information about the City of Waterloo and its departments can be found on the City of Waterloo Web site.

NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service

The direct link is

Iowa Flood Information System

The direct link is


Updated Flood Inundation Maps Available for Waverly

Inundation Maps Released for Waverly

The Iowa Flood Center has released newly updated flood inundation maps for the community of Waverly. These maps are accessible on the Internet through the Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS), an interactive Google Maps-based online application. The inundation maps are frequently used by local authorities for planning and real-time flood mitigation, but are also useful for homeowners, business owners, and others.Waverly Flood Maps

The City of Waverly, perched on the banks of the Cedar River, is prone to seasonal flooding. Like many Iowa communities, Waverly experienced severe flooding in 2008 that inundated the downtown, including city offices.

An unusually wet spring in 2013 brought additional flooding to residential areas of the city and reinforced the community’s need for tools to better understand flood risks.

The Iowa Flood Center, created in 2009, was charged with developing inundation maps for those communities most affected by the floods of 2008. IFC Water Resources Engineer Dan Gilles says that the maps creation process begins with data collection. Typically, the team will collect measurements of the river bed and any structures in the floodplain that affect how the river flows. These structures could include dams, bridges, levees, or even buildings. All of these data are used to create a computer model of the river and surrounding floodplain. In this particular case, the team was able to make use of an existing FEMA flood model and make some minor updates. Once a satisfactory model is developed, the team then selects the flow simulation scenarios, conducts post-processing of simulation results, gathers and applies feedback from the city and county, and finally releases the maps.

This is the second release of maps for the Waverly community, which have been revised following additional feedback from the city. “After receiving some valuable data from the City of Waverly, we chose to process some of the high flow simulation results differently to reflect their observations during the 2013 flooding event,” Gilles says.

In addition, the city’s recent installation of an inflatable dam, which can be adjusted to regulate the upstream pool height, significantly altered the model. Gilles explains that while the U.S. Geological Survey’s gauges use the river’s stage to estimate flow, the new dam disrupts that relationship and has caused the USGS to deploy different techniques to estimate flow through Waverly. These most recent revisions more accurately reflect the relationship between flow and inundation extent on the maps.

Waverly City Administrator Phil Jones described IFIS as a great way to see both real-time precipitation and river information. He adds that during last May’s flooding, the system allowed city officials to see the rainfall in the upper part of the watershed and the changes in stream levels as the high water flowed south. They were able to then apply that data to the inundation maps to get an idea of the potential impact on Waverly.

The IFC team has created an ever-expanding library of inundation maps; currently maps exist for 12 Iowa communities. The IFC continues to improve these maps in response to feedback from local officials and new flood mitigation systems installed by these communities.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jackie Stolze, Iowa Flood Center, 319-335-6410,

Field locations sought for IFloodS

Iowa Flood Center seeks locations to deploy instruments for NASA project.

The Iowa Flood Center (IFC) will be collaborating with NASA in the spring of 2013 on Iowa Flood Studies or IFloodS – a project to enhance the understanding of precipitation events worldwide. NASA is planning the Global Precipitation Measurement multi-satellite mission for monitoring floods and management of water resources throughout the world.

Iowa Flood Center staff will be seeking locations on public and private land in northeast Iowa, focused mostly on the Cedar and Upper Iowa River basins south of Waterloo and west of Cedar Rapids which will include the following counties: Benton, Blackhawk, Grundy, Hamilton, Hardin, Iowa, Linn, Marshall, and Tama.

The instruments will be located on properties so as to not disturb any ongoing operations or landowner privacy. Depending on the type of instrument, certain amenities such as a power source or internet access may be required nearby.

Rain Gauge

Rain gauges, as shown above, are an example of the equipment that will be deployed for IFloodS.

Additional information regarding field instruments and site requirements for IFloodS can be found in the IFloodS Field Instrumentation Guide.

IFloodS is scheduled to occur during the spring of 2013 from April through June. Instruments could be deployed to field locations as early as mid-March, depending on the weather conditions. They will be installed and monitored by IFC and NASA personnel throughout the experiment.

Field data collected by the instruments will be available in real-time to researchers through a web-based interface (Internet browser) being developed by NASA and the Iowa Flood Center.

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.

For additional information and serving as a host site for instrumentation devices, contact:

Sara Steussy, Iowa Flood Center, 319-384-1729,


Minimizing the Impact of Flooding

Iowa Flood Center selects four watersheds for Iowa Watersheds Project

UI News Service, May 9, 2012

Agricultural Drainage _ Watershed

The Iowa Flood Center will work with four watersheds in Iowa on projects that help minimize the impact of flooding. UI News Service file photo by Tom Jorgensen.

The Iowa Flood Center and IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering (IIHR) at the University of Iowa have announced the selection of four watersheds for the initial phase of the Iowa Watersheds Project.

The selected entities and respective watersheds include:

–Clayton County for the Turkey River.
–Dallas County for the Middle/South Raccoon River.
–Davis County for Soap Creek and Chequest Creek.
–Floyd County for the Upper Cedar River.

The selected watersheds will partner with the Iowa Flood Center and IIHR on a multi-year project to monitor, plan, and implement watershed projects aimed at reducing the adverse impacts of flooding in Iowa. Specific goals of the watershed projects include:

–Maximizing soil water holding capacity from precipitation.
–Minimizing severe soil erosion and sand deposition during floods.
–Managing water runoff in uplands under saturated soil moisture conditions.
–Reducing and mitigating structural and nonstructural flood damage.

In the initial phase of the project, researchers at the Iowa Flood Center and IIHR will work with local entities to complete a detailed hydrologic assessment of each watershed that will identify areas where the implementation of flood mitigation projects is most likely to reduce downstream flood damages. Funds will be available during the second phase of the project for the design and construction of watershed projects in identified areas of the watersheds.

Specific watershed mitigation projects for this study will be determined in the second phase. Potential projects may include water storage structures, flood plain restoration, buffer strip installation and enhancement, advanced tile drainage systems, and flood easement acquisition.

The constructed watershed improvement projects will be monitored by researchers throughout the study and evaluated at completion to demonstrate their impact and effectiveness. The results from the Iowa Watershed Projects will provide critical information to guide the implementation and design of additional watershed projects across the state of Iowa.

Funding for the Iowa Watershed Projects is provided through the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Disaster Relief allocation and is available only to the 85 counties (or cities within those counties) declared federal disaster areas during the 2008 flood.

Visit the Iowa Watersheds Project page for additional information and to view a map of the selected watersheds.


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