Monthly Archives: June 2008

Flood update

Today’s update on the Cedar Rapids flooding is sober, at best.  And in case anyone in the country still doesn’t think this will affect them – the estimated Iowa crop losses are at $3 billion, at the moment.

From my mom this morning:

Today’s paper had me close to tears.  As the flood waters recede in Cedar Rapids (they have yet to recede in Iowa City), we’re beginning to comprehend the enormity of our losses.  I’ll just list what I can remember:

Mercy Hospital remains closed.  St. Luke’s has renamed itself temporarily, “Cedar Rapids’ Hospital” in cooperation with Mercy, and they are overwhelmed with patients.  Staff from Mercy is helping, but the emergency room in particular is overflowing.  St. Luke’s had fish in their parking ramp and lost power, so we are extremely fortunate that we still have one hospital.

The Paramount Theatre sustained extraordinary damage, in the millions.  This one in particular hurts…it is the jewel of our downtown.  The glass entrance doors were knocked off as the water rose to just under the marqee and the water just flowed into that giant “bowl.”

The library announced today that they lost the entire adult collection.  Only the children’s materials on the 2nd floor should be OK.

The new YMCA had it’s entire 1st floor swamped, including the pool, the gym, etc.

Quaker Oats, still the world’s largest cereal mill, is closed indefinitely.  They announced today they will be back but it will be a long time from now.

The Czech Museum and Czech Village sustained extraordinary damage.  The entire area is on the National Historic Registry….so much is lost forever.

The police station, the sheriff’s office and downtown fire station were flooded and are closed for an undertermined amount of time.  At first there was no looting, but now we’ve had reports of gangs of looters coming in from out of town.  A private guard, watching Boyson’s Jewelers,  chased a group of about 20 out of the Town Centre building (old Killian’s) with 2 guard dogs and a sawed-off shotgun.

All the government offices on May’s Island and the Linn County jail are closed indefinitely.  The federal courthouse is also badly damaged.

The Science Station was gutted.

The school board building was flooded.

Theatre Cedar Rapids was badly damaged, but they believe the building itself is structurally sound.  They lost a vast costume collection and the other local historic organ (the Paramount and Theatre Cedar Rapids housed 2 of 40 in the world) was badly damaged.

Iowa Realty sustained structural damage and it’s feared that this high-rise may have to be razed.

The African-Amercan Museum announced yesterday that they “took a tremendous hit” but believe they can recover their building.

The CR Museum of Art only flooded in the basement, so they did not lose major collections, but have a massive clean-up ahead.

Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City is still underwater up to row J.   Again, damage in the millions.  Iowa City still has many areas under water, such as the Coralville strip.

37 restaurants were flooded.  Our two newest and nicest downtown restaurants, Blend and Zin’s, are so heavily damaged that they do not believe they can come back.

US Bank (Merchants Bank) is heavily damaged and has structural damage of deep concern….also one of CR’s most historic buildings.  People are very concerned about their safety deposit boxes at US and Guaranty Banks….they are in the basement… access yet.  Ginsberg Jewelers had all their inventory in a vault but the water still seeped in, destroying pearls and other items.

The “strike teams” are assessing over 4000 homes to see if they can be saved.  In the end, 9.2 square miles of the city was evacuated.  Approximately 1300 city blocks flooded. A delegation from the city visited Grand Forks, ND on Tuesday and were bluntly told that rebuilding will take 10 years and will be a contentious and difficult time.   Already 6,000-7,000 jobs have been lost.

Merrill Lynch, which my nephew manages, is completely destroyed.  The glass walls gave way to the flood waters.

The photos are INCREDIBLE…..a new grand piano in the Czech Museum turned completely unpside down.  A deck from a home washed down several blocks resting against another home, with its grill and patio furniture sitting intact.   A koi (big goldfish) swimming in a puddle outside Hancher.  Sludge up the walls of homes and businesses to heights of 7, 8, 9 feet and more.  Many homeowners who pledged they would rebuild have changed their mind once they actually got inside.  So many people have lost EVERYTHING.  The one thing we can truly be grateful for is that there has been no loss of life directly attributed to the flood.  A woman found dead in her flooded basement apparently died of a heart attack.  Accidents and illness, however, are beginning to take a toll.

One business owner stated it very well when she said, “We imagined the worst and it was worse than that.”

I apologize for the grim tone of this e-mail.  Still, I know you want to be updated.
XXOO, Karla

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Floods in Iowa

I’ve been in a posting drought, unlike my hometown, which as of this week is largely under water. I’m from Cedar Rapids, which has been catastrophically flooded this week. I talked to my grandfather today, he’s 94 and has lived in Cedar Rapids most of his life (he’s safe and sound, gratefully.) He’s never seen a thing like this – he’s spent the past three days watching the news, shaking his head saying “GEEZ”.

Aerial of flooded Cedar Rapids downtown

The damage and consequence of this flooding is indescribable. There are remarkable pictures, but to know this place, to have my roots there, and begin to grasp the impact of this is emotional and overwhelming. And it’s been so strange to experience here, juxtaposed with the peaceful beauty where I sit and on most levels, life as usual.

I’ve been unable to sit on my hands, so I’ve spent about 16 hours this weekend helping with a website resource for Iowa flood victims: And as soon as the rebuild fund is established I’ll be setting up and posting a site to take donations.

For those of you out of the news cycle loop, or who don’t have a clear picture of what has been happening, here’s what my mom sent me in her update yesterday:

OK….the latest from Cedar Rapids. Over 24,000 people have been evacuated. Approximately 438 city blocks are flooded. There was one death reported tonight, but no details. (Actually, we think it’s AMAZING there haven’t been more deaths and serious accidents—something to be grateful for!) All the wells have been contaminated except for one and it is sandbagged. We are on a CRITICAL water restriction, still allowed drinking water, but if the last well goes we will be on a boil order “for the foreseeable future.” We lost power again this morning but once again we were fortunate enough to have it restored.

Today the devastation of our downtown began to sink in… of the Paramount Theatre with water almost up to the marquee (Kathy, I wonder if we’ll get to do our Sept. concert with the Symphony there….) Theatre Cedar Rapids is badly damaged. Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre is moving Aida, scheduled for next Friday and Sunday, to Washington High School. The Merrill Lynch office was destroyed…the glass walls gave way. The Art Museum was flooded in the lower level, but we’re hoping there wasn’t major damage to the gallery space. Many other businesses were destroyed. The preliminary loss figure is $737 million, but that’s very preliminary.

They don’t expect the water to recede much until next week and it won’t be below flood stage until approximately June 24. Of course that will affect more structures as they continue to sit in many feet of water.

We are just now seeing the effect of the flooding on other communities. The University of Iowa in Iowa City as well as the cities of Iowa City and Coralville are in extreme danger. 19 buildings have been evacuated and the Memorial Union, built in 1914, is in peril. There are many areas just beginning to evacuate as they expect their crest next Wed. or Thurs. The entire town of Palo had a mandatory evacuation.

Des Moines is just beginning to be hit. That’s going to be the one to watch. It is absolutely overwhelming. There will be an official state “fly-over” tomorrow to assess crop damage. The commodities market took a huge hit today in anticipation of the massive reduction in corn production, which of course our nation is relying on more than ever—-for fuel as well as for food.

Getting around the state is almost impossible. Well, it IS impossible in many instances. We won’t get to share Father’s Day with Bryan and Katie because Interstate 380 is closed. They tell people if they must get to CR from Iowa City to drive to Interstate 35 (in Des Moines!) and go north to Highway 20 and finally south from Waterloo. It would take many hours instead of 25 minutes. Interstate 80 is still closed east of Iowa City. Many other highways and roads are closed.

We’re trying to stay busy, helping as we can. Denny spent a good portion of the day at 1st Presbyterian Church where the basement is badly flooded. The Linn County foodbank is there, so they had to move all the food as well as all the church music. Services will have to be shared with Westminster Presbyterian for a while.

My brother is covering the news for Iowa City (even though he’s the sports guy) because a) there’s no sports happening anytime soon and b) no other staff from the news station can get to Iowa City. I’m so grateful everyone in my family is safe and on high ground. So, so many families, and friends that I’m sure I don’t even know about yet, have lost everything.

I suspect I won’t be posting much for the rest of the month as I continue to help my family and friends and prepare to move myself, but I have every intention of picking the pace back up in July. Till then…


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