After the record-breaking Iowa flood of 2008, 85 of the state’s 99 counties were declared federal disaster areas. Many consecutive days of heavy rainfall had led to flood damages across the state estimated at $10 billion; one local government official described the event as “Iowa’s Katrina.” In Cedar Rapids, the Cedar River crested at 31.12 feet, shattering the previous record of 20 feet. The river rose 19 feet above flood level, inundating 10 square miles of the city. Clean-up crews removed nearly 42,000 tons of flood debris and demolished 1,300 properties. The floodwaters dislocated about 18,000 residents and flooded critical infrastructure, including the primary hospital, fire station, library, and police station.
Iowans lacked access to critical information to help them understand, plan, and prepare for the 2008 floods and to mitigate their flood risks. In response, University of Iowa professors Larry Weber and Witold Krajewski worked with several Iowa legislators to create an Iowa-based center for flood research and education. The Iowa Flood Center was established in 2009 and is actively engaged in flood-related projects to help Iowans be more flood-resilient.