Daily Iowan Spotlight Iowa City: UI professor works to prevent Another Flood

Monday, October 4, 2010

By Alan Toussaint
The Daily Iowan

Months after the historic flooding in the summer of 2008, many Iowans were left with questions on how to move forward. And when the Iowa Flood Center was created in the spring of 2009, the center and its director Witold Krajewski were there to help.

Today, Krajewski, 57, a University of Iowa professor of civil and environmental engineering, helps Iowans at risk for flooding better understand water flow in the environment.

But the positive nature of his work doesn’t keep him from occasionally feeling the emotional toll of flood damage. During this summer’s flood in Ames and Des Moines, Krajewski said he felt a “high level of frustration.”

“It was like a challenge that I can help with my knowledge,” said Krajewski, a native of Warsaw, Poland.

Krajewski and his team travel to different Iowa communities to inform people of the projects they’re working on, which they hope will prevent another flood.

Some local agencies have science and engineering backgrounds, Krajewski said, but the center also visits farming and business communities that lack scientific expertise.

The damage to those communities is what triggered state politicians to form the first flood center in Iowa in 2009 — and they came to Krajewski for the job, he said.

He worked with Larry Weber, director of hydroscience and engineering, to establish the center. Krajewski is also the Rose & Joseph Summers Chair in Water Resources Engineering.

During his time working at the National Weather Service, he worked on the development of NEXRAD — a network designed to detect severe weather and rainfall with images of storms across the U.S. There are currently seven systems in the state of Iowa.

He met the woman who became his wife at the Weather Service, where she was a system analyst. They met at a Christmas party.

“It was easy to notice her,” Krajewski said. “I married her, and [we] flew to Iowa together.”

Carmen Langel, the managing director of the Flood Center, said Krajewski has a “commitment to Iowa and with the Flood Center research.”

But in his personal life, Krajewski is also a committed sportsman who established a judo class on campus before the flood of 2008 took the bulk of his attention.

A coworker, Marian Muste, said she has observed Krajewski’s attention to training, teamwork, and engagement.

“They are seamlessly applied in his professional life with superb results,” she said.

And sports also help keep Krajewski young.

“That slows the aging process,” he said.