Sunday, June 15, 2008

Distaster in Iowa

By Friday night, the Cedar River hit an all-time high flood stage of nearly 33 feet above normal, breaking the old record set in 1929 by 11 feet. This flooded over 400 blocks and filled beloved businesses and buildings, including the historic Paramount Theater and the downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library where I've spent much time in browsing and research.

The water has receded remarkably in the downtown area and bridges once submerged have emerged as of this morning, but Iowa City is bracing itself for unprecedented flooding from the Iowa River between now and Tuesday. I just graduated from the University of Iowa (May 17th), so it is surreal to learn that the two buildings where I spent so much time these past two years are under threat. Video broadcasts last night showed efforts to sandbag the area and I saw the student parking lot where I parked every day is now submerged under six feet of water. This means the English & Philosophy building (EPB) is probably a total loss. It is next to the river and one floor was built below ground--I suspect the second floor is also affected.

Further up from the parking area is the Adler Journalism Building (AJB), which was completed in 2006--a beautiful facility where I spent much time completing my studies in journalism. The first floor offers a luxurious student lounge with a bank of television screens tuned to news channels around the world, and the classrooms were state-of-the-art. The offices and work space for the Daily Iowan, the award-winning student publication of the School of Journalism, also fills much of the first floor. They moved operations last week uphill to the Iowa City Gazette. Students moved as many of the books and special collections from the Main Library adjacent to the AJB building, so I hope it will not be affected but there's no way to know for sure. The freeway was closed Friday night so I cannot get to campus to help. This is very difficult for everyone connected to Iowa City and the University of Iowa.

Also, for those not familiar with the area, Cedar Rapids is just a mile or so from my home and the downtown area is about seven miles from here. The City of Marion is pumping water to Cedar Rapids to help residents with their urgent need, and we are under water restriction. FEMA arrived last week as did the American Red Cross, working with officials to assess and set up a claims process and get assistance to residents in need. As the water began to recede last night, the air became pungent with the aroma of sewage and dead fish. I think we are still in shock over the magnitude of this event which technically is not over yet. So many roads and freeways are closed that it is extremely difficult for anyone needing to get in or out of eastern Iowa.

To view photos taken of the area by me and my husband Russ, visit the flood page at my Web site.

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