MASON CITY — The lessons learned from the flood of 2008 paid off in 2016, City Administrator Brent Trout said Friday.
Trout spent Friday morning conferring with Emergency Management Director Steve O’Neil as they tracked the weather forecast for the weekend.
He said the city has made many improvements since the June 8, 2008, flood that damaged 800 homes, 170 of them so severely they had to be demolished.
The city’s water treatment plant was also flooded, causing city residents to go without water in their homes and businesses for about a week and forcing 200 restaurants and food-related businesses to close during that time.
Today, many improvements have been made. A stone wall now surrounds the water plant to protect it from future floods. It was built mostly with money from the federal government.
The flood caught many city officials by surprise in 2008.
In contrast, Trout was able to tell the City Council Tuesday night that heavy rains were coming and that the Winnebago River was expected to crest at 14.2 feet on Thursday. It crested at 14.14 feet.
Officials were able to predict what would happen because of sensors on the Winnebago River that weren’t there in 2008.
The sensors are in Leland, Forest City, Fertile and at Kildeer Avenue. “These were very helpful because they allow us to monitor what’s happening upstream,” Trout said.
The city also has a flood sensor on 12th Street by the water plant, two on Willow Creek and one at Cheslea Creek.
“The sensors on the creeks are important because they help us in any evacuation planning,” he said.
“The sensors make our decision-making process easier because we have specific information about specific locations and we have more capacity to get the information.”
Another addition to the city’s flood prevention program was building an effluent pumping station at the wastewater treatment plant.
In 2008, the plant nearly overflowed its capacity which would have been disastrous,” Trout said. “In addition to everything else that was going on, it would have been like being flooded from the inside out,” he said.
The pumping station, purchased primarily with FEMA money, will prevent that from happening, he said.
In 2008, many residents were alerted to the flooding by a policeman knocking on their front door telling them to evacuate.
Today, the city has a “reverse 911” system, an emergency notification system that will notify residents through a phone message well in advance of impending danger.
Trout pointed the loss of about 170 homes in the 2008 flood means fewer homes today are in the flood-prone areas — and that means fewer people to evacuate in the event of an emergency.
On Thursday, police and fire personnel evacuated residents of the Autumn Park complex, one of the residential areas still in low-lying areas. All residents were back in their homes on Friday.