I was planning to go to the NCAA Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium in Des Moines last Thursday. Those plans quickly changed when it became apparent that flooding on the Cedar River was going to be much more serious than anyone anticipated. (I don't know if I could have gotten to Des Moines anyway...and, if I had, who knows if I could have made it back.)
Station Manager Dennis Green and I decided that we should do twice-hourly reports beyond our regularly scheduled morning drive newscasts. We have continued this every day since...both of us doing on-air work and updating information for the reports and on our web site. The emergency operations center has been set up at Kirkwood Community College, so the briefings were convenient for me.
My family lives several miles from the river but I checked early on to see if they were all right. Some water had come into the basement with the heavy rain and the power had gone off, then come back on. Assured that they were doing OK, I concentrated on my work.
I have not been directly impacted by the flooding. Except...
One of the my sons work for the Veterans Memorial Commission in the building that houses city hall, which sits on an island in the Cedar River and was inundated. They had been working in the days before, trying to keep water out. But the flooding was overwhelming. Two of his co-workers live in the flooded area. He goes back to work tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, helping clean up the police station.
A guy who works in a neighboring department at Kirkwood lives in Palo, which was totally evacuated and flooded.
The family of a friend of one of my sons had moved to Palo several years ago but when his mom got tired of the drive to Cedar Rapids, they moved back...so they missed the flood.
Another son had a recording studio in a building near the flooded area. He and his partner moved their equipment to another site.
Since only one of the city's wells was functioning after the flooding and city water capacity was just 25% of normal, everyone was asked to stop taking showers, washing dishes and doing laundry and not flushing toilets with every use to conserve. Capacity is now up to 50% and the restrictions have been eased a bit...an odd/even plan based on address numbers.
I tried to leave work the first night of the flood. Interstate 380 was the only way through town. Traffic was so heavy that I turned around and went back.
I've had calls from my brothers and gotten e-mails from my son who lives in suburban Denver, a former colleague in Sioux Falls, an army buddy in California...even Ted Hasiuk who does our smooth jazz show Saturday mornings. He lives in Winnipeg, Canada, and it brought back memories for him of the Red River flood of 1997 that hit Grand Forks, ND, so hard and threatened his city.
Then there was Father's Day. I would have planned to be in church with my three sons who are in town. By late afternoon, they determined that traffic had gone down on I-380 so they showed up with two pizzas, soft drinks and a Snickers bar and spent an hour or so with their old man. It was great to see them...and it made it a good Father's Day after all.
As I drove over the river that evening, I saw all the housboats that had jammed up against the railroad bridge by Quaker Oats and all the debris stuck under the 1st Avenue Bridge by city hall.
On my way back into work Monday morning, I drove past downtown. Except for a few lights in a couple of floors of the Alliant Energy Tower and a portable light set up on one of the streets, the entire business district and surrounding flooded areas were dark. It was spooky.
I can't imagine what it must be like for those people whose homes have been heavily damaged and in some cases destroyed. It makes one thankful to only have to report on it...and not be directly involved.
George Dorman, News and Operations Director firstname.lastname@example.org