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: http://flood2008.org. 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…..photos 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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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Floods in Iowa

  1. such a mess.

    i’m glad your family is okay.

    the downtown photos are incredible. for me, the ones of maze island were the most dramatic — the fact that the streets aren’t even visible. like you’d need a ferry.

    des moines sure did make out okay in comparison. and my immediate neighborhood went unscathed. thankfully we never lost water or power.

  2. Thanks for writing this.

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