Ice house photo
Ice house on Cedar River (photo courtesy of Cedar Falls Historical Society).

In Cedar Falls, Iowa, a historic icon is in danger from record-breaking floods. In the days before refrigeration, the huge Cedar Falls Ice House – which sits on the edge of Iowa’s Cedar River – stored ice harvested from the river. Today, it’s a museum.

Nine years ago, two weeks of intense rain led to the biggest flood ever recorded on the Cedar River.

Smith: “The river came up so fast and the force was so strong and it was so high that it pushed open the doors and damaged all of the displays.”

That’s Karen Smith, the executive director of the Cedar Falls Historical Society. She says that flood nearly destroyed the ice house.

Then, just this past fall, the second largest flood on record struck and the ice house was surrounded by water once again.

Receding water
Receding water from 2016 flooding (photo courtesy of Cedar Falls Historical Society).

So what’s with all these record floods?

In the last 50 years, heavy precipitation events in the Northeast, Midwest, and Upper Plains have increased by 30 percent. And more downpours and prolonged rains make streams and rivers flood like they did in Cedar Falls.

Scientists predict the changing climate will make extreme rain events more frequent in some areas – and that could put homes, businesses, and historic icons like the Ice House in jeopardy.

AUTHOR
Sam Harrington is a freelance journalist, writer, and illustrator in Madison, Wisconsin.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

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