CR flood, Thursday
This is slightly out of order, since I plan to share pre-flood coverage tomorrow or over the weekend. But. I want to go ahead and share some photos from today's flooding. Cedar Rapids is in the midst of what is being called the worst flood in CR's history. Perhaps thousands of homes are affected, but I don't think we'll know that until the water recedes. Wednesday I was able to walk right up to the levee in the Time Check neighborhood (which would be considered 1st Street NW); today (Thursday, since I'm writing this late), I parked on 13th Street, and eventually had to leave because of flash flooding caused by heavy rains. It's a fine line to walk for journalists: do our job, or stay safe. It's not always a one-or-other situation, but today, I did have to make that decision.
My day started when I got a call about a levee break downtown. I never did find the levee, but I did find this abandoned car..
After filing some early photos, I headed to Time Check, one of the neighborhoods hardest hit. Just Wednesday, I was walking 6th Street (which was completely dry at the time) with some police officers as they alerted residents to the mandatory evacuation. These photos were taken at about 11th or 12th Street. The levee was breached in two places near this neighborhood, causing the water to rise rapidly, and leaving some residents stranded. (7th thru 13th Streets had been warned that there was a slight possibility, but only up to 7th was included in Wednesday's evacuation. Still, many residents outside the evacuation area were already packing up Wednesday.) I was amazed by the volunteers that live on higher ground, but came to the flooded areas with boats to help out.
This woman alerted firemen to a 95-year-old trapped on the second floor of his home. She was crying as a volunteer placed the man's dog in her arms and the firemen brought the man to safety.
After filing photos from Time Check, we slowly made our way to the edge of Czech Village; we had to take some creative side roads to get here, since nearly every major route in was closed by the National Guard. In the span of four or so hours, the river rose a long block and a half, to about waist deep at the speed limit sign, and impassable well in front of the car (I know.. I tried. I made the best $40 investment of my life when I bought chest-high waders.)
On the way back into town, the interstate was reopened but moving slowly.. slow enough for me to pull over a few times to take photos of the scene below. The photo at the top of this post is of May's Island, our City Hall. There are usually three bridges visible, and yesterday, the river was several feet below the retaining wall at City Hall. The speed at which it's risen is startling.
As exhausting as this is (my first day covering Cedar Rapids, I was awoken at 3:30 a.m. when Czech Village was evacuated), once we're off work the flood is still all we can talk about. Will the Gazette be evacuated? How will we put out the paper if the office is flooded? Is our printing press going to flood? Adding to that, on the radio tonight (AM 600 has been an incredible source of information) they said there's danger of CR running out of water.. which means my shower today was probably the last for a few days. I'm incredibly fortunate that my house is safe for now.. we're on an incline from the river, and I live on the second floor. So all of you can stop worrying, for now. (Honestly, I doubt it will make it this high. So really. Stop worrying. Though I do appreciate the concern.) I continue to be astounded at the sheer volume of water; seeing familiar landmarks, completely submerged in water; driving over the river on the 380 bridge and being unable to see any other bridge into town; downtown completely dark after losing power overnight... it's all surreal to me. So often, we cover events that don't affect us personally. Flooding in Olin earlier this spring, tornadoes further north, the immigration raid.. and we always have to be sensitive to the fact that we're out of our element, and that it could seem that we're taking advantage of someone's tragedy for our gain. But this is home. And it's a completely different experience, to cover a disaster at home. But even though I'm exhausted (physically and mentally), sunburned, continually wet, hungry, thirsty.. it's amazing to cover a story like this. This is history in the making.. and I'm there, waist-deep in floodwater (with my waders on, of course), documenting it.
All this, and the river still hasn't crested..