In this area, the levee system provides protection from most flood events on the Mississippi River. In general, the Mississippi reaches flood stage two to three times per year, and other than a need to pump out the rain that falls while the floodgates are in and a few areas not covered by the levees, Gateway-area residents are minimally affected.
“People should understand it isn’t a guarantee that we won’t have a problem here,” said Kness. “Levees fail.”
To illustrate, in 2008 Linn County saw the Cedar River crest at 31.12 feet -- 11 feet above the previous record. “We shouldn’t let a lack of imagination stop us from being prepared,” said Kness. “There’s a first time for everything.”
Kness also stressed that flash flooding -- the No. 1 cause of death associated with thunderstorms in the U.S. -- can affect virtually any location, not just areas in a floodplain. Flash flooding occurs when intense rainfall results in a rapid surge of rising flood waters.
Everyone is encouraged to have a sump pump to remove water from a home, and to be prepared to evacuate on short notice if needed in the event of flash flooding.
One of the main things that people know, but don’t do, is to have an emergency kit, said Brooke Mehaffey, Red Cross Regional Communications manager.
A smartphone can be a valuable tool during a severe weather event, with many different applications available that will notify the user of watches and warnings issued by the National Weather Service. The American Red Cross offers several apps, explained Mehaffey, including first aid, tornado and flood. Users can set multiple locations so the app will give notifications for the area where the user or their loved ones live.
While it is always important to have a plan, Mehaffey said, this is particularly true for families with children. Make sure children know what to expect in the event of an emergency to help them stay calm, and practice emergency escape routes and taking shelter.