The drinking water system for the 140,000 residents in Cedar Rapids is endangered. The city’s water supply comes from 50 vertical wells which feed into four huge "collector" wells. Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge calls it a "severe" situation.
"Three of those big collector wells are now gone and so they are down to one well and that certainly is not going to hold up for the needs of the city," Judge says. State and federal officials are preparing to operate water distribution centers in Cedar Rapids to get drinking water to residents because the system is operating at one-quarter capacity.
Iowa Homeland Security administrator David Miller says this announcement probably will spark a run on water in Cedar Rapids. "People we know will go out and get water and fill their tanks. It’ll quickly deplete. We’re not saying that’s a bad thing. It’s a fact," Miller says, "so if they can’t keep up with the water supply then there’s going to be an need to at least supplement that. If they lost that (one remaining water) tank…then we’ll have to take over water operations."
As of five o’clock Wednesday afternoon there were about 12 million gallons of water is in that lone remaining collector well. "If they lose that, we need to plan (on providing) water for 140,000," Miller says.
By late Wednesday afternoon about 4000 residents in Cedar Rapids had evacuated their homes. The Cedar River has swamped over 100 city blocks in Cedar Rapids.
The lieutenant governor is warning Iowa City residents to be "bracing themselves" for evacuation as the Iowa River is expected to surge farther into their the community, perhaps sweeping through "historic" buildings on the University of Iowa campus and endangering the city’s power plant.
"We’re going to do everything we can to try to protect the assets of the state and those great old buildings that are the on campus," Judge says. "…One of the things that’s concerning us is the power plant that sits there along the river…That is a power plant for the university and also for University Hospital." Judge says a plan’s in place to provide backup power to the hospital if that power plant does succumb to flood waters.
Residents upstream in Waterloo and Cedar Falls have "turned the corner" in their flood fight, according to the lieutenant governor, but she says other Iowans will soon be battling rising waters. "This event will not be over Monday or Tuesday," Judge says. "We are also very much aware that later on next week we will have flooding problems in southern Iowa and we are watching closely the Des Moines River around Ottumwa and on south as it flows down to the Mississippi."
The flooding Cedar and Iowa Rivers meet in the Wapello and Columbus Junction areas and Judge says those regions have begun to do what’s necessary to brace for flooding there next week. Nine rivers that course through the state of Iowa are at or above record flood levels. That tally does not include the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers which serve as the state’s eastern and western borders.
Click on the first audio link below to listen to the lieutenant governor’s news conference at the state command center. It was held during the five o’clock hour.
Click on the second audio link below to listen to Governor Chet Culver’s teleconference tonight. It was held during the 10 o’clock hour.