KGAN-TV: Sensors Could Unlock Frozen Soil Info

Saturday, March 8, 2014

It might seem like the melting snow is the biggest flood risk this year, but the National Weather Service says eastern IOWA'S water levels are at or below normal flood risk levels for this time of year.

Iowa Flood Center director Witold Krajewski said it's what underground that stands to impact Iowans more. "I am concerned about the deep freeze of the soils," Krajewski said. That deep freeze means future rainfall will not have anywhere to go, he said. "We will get significant runoff and if those storms are widespread, we may experience some flooding," he said.

That's why, despite the low flood risk, the Johnson County Emergency Management Agency is prepared for the worst, at least until June 1, said director Dave Wilson. The EMA has leftover sandbags from last year's flood stored in North Liberty for anyone experiencing residual flooding.

With that in mind, the Iowa Flood Center has proposed a $1 million plus $100,000 yearly maintenance statewide soil sensor network to the state legislature. Each county would have a sensor, and cell towers would feed back real time moisture and temperature information to the flood center -- and the public. The network has implications for agriculture, research, and of course, flood preparation.

"Clearly, in March, it would be nice to know how deep the freeze is," Krajewski said.

The Iowa Flood Center will speak to legislators in Des Moines next Tuesday to promote the soil network proposal. If the proposal became a bill and passed, Krajewski would like to have the sensors in place by next year.

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