The forecasts early Friday morning were ominous: The forecast for Saturday was for rain — perhaps as much as an inch — with temperatures rising into the mid- to upper 30s.
Today was forecast to be dry, but more rain, more above-freezing temperatures and the possibility of rain turning to ice near mid-week were enough to raise the hackles of city officials.
With the vast majority of the city’s storm sewer inlets buried by the Street Department’s efforts to keep streets open in the wake of a series of major snow events followed by below-average temperatures, the forecast for rain and warmer temperatures melting the city’s snowpack, the possibility of localized flooding became very real.
Beginning Friday morning, Street Department employees hit the streets with four graders, three skid loaders and a tractor to clear snow and ice away from storm drains to allow water from the anticipated rains and melting snow to flow into the sewer system rather than being trapped on the streets.
The focus Friday was on the city’s west and south sides, where the flatter terrain is more prone to flooding damage. Crews were back in Friday night, this time focusing on storm drains at the bottom of streets on Council Bluffs hilly east side. A third crew was scheduled to come in at 7 a.m. Saturday to work on opening sewer inlets that were not cleared by crews working Friday and Friday night.
For the second time in as many days, Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh city residents for their assistance in helping address Mother Nature’s winter swansong.
On Thursday, flanked by Jeremy Noel, streets manager, and Fire Chief Justin James, he asked that residents who live on residential streets that are not designated as emergency snow routes park in driveways or limit parking to one side of the street. Doing so, he said, would allow street department trucks to push snow back on streets that have been narrowed by the snow removal effort to the point where fire engines and rescue squads cannot get through.
Friday, with the threat of flooding as a result of heavy rains and melting snow, he asked for residents who are able to help clean snow and ice away from storm sewer inlets in the blocks where they live.
Those who were residents of Council Bluffs in the summer of 2011 will remember the almost herculean effort that kept our community safe and dry when the Missouri River was above flood stage for 100 days.
The problems that faced Council Bluffs this weekend — and in the days to come based on recent weather reports — are minor in comparison, but they do present a threat. City crews are doing all they can to minimize or alleviate that threat, but once again they could use some help from local residents.
We’re confident the residents of our city who are able to do so will answer that call, no matter what time of year it is.