Mayor John Watson discusses the Hesco flood barriers and what they protected with Gov. Terry Branstad during the Governor’s visit to Vinton on Wednesday.

A couple walked along the Cedar River bank at Celebration Park last evening, and observed the water almost even with the top of the stone steps that lead down to the river. For the past few days, the water had been covering much of the park; now the river is mostly within its banks. A few low-lying areas remain under water as residents near the river continue to deal with the second-highest recorded Cedar River flood in Vinton history.

The river, according to the National Weather Serves/United States Geological Survey gauge located near the Highway 150 bridge, crested Monday morning at 21.8 feet, almost three feet lower than the record 24.7 crest in June of 2008.

Vinton and Benton County leaders met with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds at noon yesterday. Before touring a portion of the flooded area, Branstad gave local leaders an overview of the current flooding situation across Iowa, where 21 counties have been declared disaster areas because of either flash floods or rivers overflowing their banks.

Branstad said that in Vinton, like in other parts of Iowa, residents have come together to help each other and their community to reduce the impact of flooding. The Governor said that the experience of 2008, along with flood-fighting technologies like the Hesco barriers, helped reduce the number of people impacted as well as the cost in property damage.

Benton County Emergency Management Coordinator Scott Hansen told the Governor that after 2008, 29 home owners accepted the FEMA “buyout,” agreeing to sell their home and move out of the flood-prone areas. A few others have said they are ready to make the same choice now, Hansen said.

Mayor John Watson led Branstad and the rest of the group on a short tour of some flooded areas. The governor visited a family who had survived the 2008 flood as well as this one. A watermark about 6 feet from the garage floor serves as a reminder of how high the water rose eight summers ago.

Reynolds and the Mayor and a few others also walked through some shallow water to look inside the VMEU buildings, where just a couple of inches of water covered parts of the floor, but the facility avoided the damage of 2008, when some of its major generators were significantly damaged. Reynolds even climbed atop a two-tier Hesco barrier to get a better view of the flood’s impact, Watson said.

Along with the preparations, having fewer homes in the flood plain, and more accurate flood forecast technology (the river crested on Monday just a few inches lower than the National Weather Service had predicted on Thursday morning), the other major difference was that Vinton had 34 or 35 less inches of river to deal with.

When asked how much more prepared Vinton would have been for a 24.7 flood this year than the community was in 2008, Hansen replied that he could not answer such a hypothetical question.

The Governor’s visit came as local and state leaders began organizing clean-up efforts as well as offering information about how those most severely affected can begin the process of applying for assistance. See some of that information HERE.

By Thursday morning, a week after the first flood predictions, the river was at 16.4 feet, about one and 1/2 feet over official flood level. Crews had begun removing some of the Hesco barriers along 2nd Avenue on Wednesday.

See more photos of Wednesday’s meeting and barrier removal HERE.