Red Winged Black Bird on a fence post in a field.

East Iowa Flood 2008


Category: General

The big news around here is the fact that we have a little more water than we normally like to see. If you were to make a guess based on the video and photos from the news agencies, you would think that the entire eastern half of Iowa had become a new Atlantis. Fortunately, things aren?t quite that bad.

There is a great deal of flooding, of course, but Eastern Iowa is mostly made of rolling hills. That means the areas around the rivers are flooded, but those of us living uphill aren?t directly affected. My neighborhood is about two hills over from the river and is in no direct danger. In fact, my place of employment is on top of the highest hill in Linn County and my office is on the second floor.

The Cedar River splits the city of Cedar Rapids about down the middle. Many of the low-lying neighborhoods have water up to the top of the first floor. The same applies to businesses in the downtown area. Our city and county government is seated on Mays Island which sits in the middle of the river. Aerial photos of the main branch of the city Library shows only the roof sticking up. It ain?t pretty right now.

There are some serious dangers. When the water started coming in it forced man-hole covers off the storm sewers. That means there are now uncovered holes in the ground that are hidden by the high water. The water itself is contaminated with who-knows-what and there are oil slicks and dumpsters floating in the water. The National Guard is keeping people out of the area, though we do have a few Darwin seekers.

Most cities have limitations on water usage. In Cedar Rapids we are down to twenty-five percent water production down at the plant. They have asked that we avoid using water except for drinking. I paid five dollars for five gallons of water at the local supermarket just to be civic minded. There is, in various conversations, a serious dread of the coming week and its lack of showers.

Roads are in bad shape around the area. There are photos of streets and highways that are completely covered. Currently, Interstate Highway 380 is covered in Cedar County east of Iowa City. Scarier still are the photos after the water recedes. State Highway 150 north of Vinton shows that about half of the road itself is missing. It is as though some great beast has taken bites out of the pavement and the underlying soil. They remind people that the waters would hide the fact that the road surface is missing.

Today, they are allowing downtown businesses who can access their business through the Sky Walk to try to retrieve important files and equipment. Persons wanting to do so must present good identification and they will be escorted by National Guard personnel. There have been stories of people opening their businesses and homes to host flooded businesses.

That is probably the most positive part of this whole affair. Everywhere in the area the people have pulled together and helped. It?s not just the help, but there is an upbeat attitude that has been consistently remarked on. There have been no reports of violence or looting or any of the other negative aspects of humanity that tend to show up during disasters. It is one of the hallmarks of Iowan culture that we are all still the same people who get together for barn raisings. It has been a good experience in that respect.

At this point, the waters are receding in Cedar Rapids. More rains are expected to slow the decrease. Afterward there will be the cleanup, which will take quite a while. The bridges across the river will have to be inspected before they can be opened to traffic again. Many homes in the flooded area will be lost. Our insurance industry will suffer greatly. Our annual Freedom Festival may need some modification.

Despite all these things, Cedar Rapids will recover rather well. In no time at all, we will be back to normal, with only a few changes. Of course, we may need to build a few more levees.

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