Palo to become river forecast site, helps with flooding efforts

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PALO, Iowa (KWWL) — An Iowa town hit hard by the 2008 floods will soon have an easier way to predict the flood levels of the river that runs through it.

The National Weather Service announced it will begin providing forecasts for Palo on the Cedar River which includes warning services. Similar forecasts are something many communities along the Cedar River depend on.

Before this, Palo had to rely on its own private survey work to try and predict the flood stages.

Running through the community of Palo, the Cedar River has had a destructive history. It caused more than $16 million in damages in 2008 and $800k when the river rose again in 2016.

“Every time we see the river rise there’s always a little bit anxiety and a little bit of wonder,” Trisca Dix, Palo City Administrator, said.

It’s caused businesses to uproot and move.

Palo Savings Bank is preparing for its grand opening on higher ground in town since taking in three feet of water in 2008.

“We had to totally gut everything and start all over again and back in ’08, we felt very important to come back to the original spot for the city but then in September of ’16, we were threatened to get flooded again,” Terry Meyer, Palo Savings Bank President, said.

Ever since the 2008 flood, the town has looked for ways to improve its flood efforts. Being a flood forecasting site will help with that.

Beginning January 15, the NWS will start forecasting the Cedar River in town at the Blairs Ferry Bridge.

The forecasts will allow them to better predict and understand when the river will rise and by how much.

“It helps individuals and the constituents become proactive with emergency preparedness,” Dix said.

A gauge was already put in place there by the United States Geology Survey in 2008 but it didn’t record and keep data and instead measured the current levels.

“If the river was going to crest in ten days, it wouldn’t actually give you what the future forecast crest would be nor would it give you any previous data,” Dix said.

Before January 15, the town had to rely on the closest forecast site which was 20 windy miles up north in Vinton.

Linn County Emergency Management Coordinator Steve O’Konek said the agency relies on that forecast data.

“For what we do, it’s vitally important. Anytime we can have good data to help us make good decisions to help a community prepare for, respond to, this kind of river effects if you will, is huge.”

O’Konek said the additional forecast site is guaranteed to make a difference for Palo and Cedar Rapids, which falls even further down the Cedar River.

“We would watch and keep an eye on the Palo, that was an accurate number but now with the forecasting, we’re going to have a better idea what that’s actually going to look like it,” he said. “It’s going to give people down the river what they might be able to expect.”

Dix added that the data that will be collected will also help them better understand where the problem areas in town are for future mitigation efforts.

Additionally, the NWS announced Cedar Bluff in Cedar County will also be a new forecasting location.

The grand opening for Palo Savings Bank is January 11 at noon.

Jalyn Souchek

Jalyn Souchek

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