CR flood, Time Check, Lawrence family

As I walked through Time Check last Friday (6/20), I noticed a purple tag on this house, and a woman with tears streaming down her face. I talked with her for a few minutes until her husband and daughter arrived, when I asked if I could stay and take photos while they looked around. Considering what the people living the flood zones have been through for the past weeks, they have been incredibly open with me, telling their stories and allowing me access, however briefly, to their lives and sharing their pain.

Lindsay Lawrence bends down to hug her daughter Hayley, 3, as they see their Fourth Street NW home in the Time Check neighborhood for the first time on Friday, June 20, 2008, since evacuating last Tuesday, June 10. Their home was marked with a purple tag indicating that their home is unsafe to enter; Lawrence and her husband Jonathan Lawrence expect that it will be demolished. "Seeing the TV, you can stay calm until you get here and see face to face what it is," Lindsay Lawrence said. They were able to remove clothes, photos and major appliances before evacuating. "It's unreal to think... our whole lives were in there," Lindsay said. It was the first home the family had owned.

A shed from Jonathan and Lindsay Lawrence's yard was carried between their home and a neighbor's home by the floodwater last week.

Jonathan Lawrence reads the purple tag on his door indicating that he and his family will be unable to return to their home because it is unsafe.

CR flood, Time Check, First Friday

Each photographer has been assigned a neighborhood to continue working in throughout the flood recovery. I was in Time Check, one of the hardest-hit areas, last Friday 6/20 photographing more cleanup.

This group decided it was easier to salvage dry belongings from the second floor using a ladder, rather than trudging through the muck on the first floor. You can see the water line at the top of the first floor windows. This family was yet another example of how incredible Iowans have been in the face of this disaster -- wife, husband, father-in-law and ex-husband all came together for the clean-up effort.

In an ironic twist, Adam will clean up the rubble from the curb after he moves it from his mother's house. He works for the city's solid waste department.

The flood left all sorts of things in places they don't belong. This boat was gone when I went back a few days ago.

Sheila, left, left her pets behind when the mandatory evacuation order was issued. Her sister Deb was with her Friday as they searched, and found, the dogs and cats. The water rose at least to the ceiling on the first floor. They didn't stand a chance. Rescuers went to the house as the floodwater rose, but were unable to find the animals.

Evidence of life lost was everywhere..

CR flood, the next Wednesday

The Wednesday after the flood, I covered two very different aspects of the recovery process.

First, a home inspector checking foundations and other potential dangers. Every basement was dark, the floors covered with a thick sludge. From these inspections came a list of 40 homes and businesses that will be demolished beginning this week. I've started a new portrait project on the families that lived in the homes to be demolished, but more on that later.

Nearly every house was swarming with family, friends and coworkers salvaging what they could and throwing everything else away. Shelby laughed and wrinkled her nose after pulling a once-clean diaper out of a china cabinet.

Presidential visit to Iowa

It's been a busy week trying to catch up after those crazy two weeks, so this is the first of many posts for today.

Everyone photographs the president descending the stairs.. but I found myself more intrigued by the man waiting for the stairs to meet the plane.

At the briefing, I got into position and waited for Bush to come to me. He was surrounded by local and federal officials, so I didn't have a clean frame with context until he got closer, with posters showing the devastation to his left and local mayors to his right.

A quick glimpse at the Iowa City mayor Regenia Bailey as governor Chet Culver looks on.

From above the flood in Coralville. Marine One was in our sight over much of the flight (or at least the important parts, like CR and Coralville.)

A quick address at the edge of the water on Normandy Drive.

And the end of the day, I stayed on the runway until the plane was out of sight.


Presidential press pool

President Bush came to Iowa on Thursday for a briefing on the flooding, aerial tour of Cedar Rapids, Coralville and Iowa City, a few stops on the ground in Iowa City. I was the local press pool photographer -- there were national press photographers on board for Time, AP, Reuters, (I'm guessing) Getty, and the White House.

We (Gazette reporter James Lynch and I) got to the airport about an hour before Air Force One was scheduled to arrive, to get our credentials for the day and go through security. We walked out to the tarmac where a riser was positioned for us to wait on. Surveillance was under way well before we arrived, and was the only thing to photograph for awhile as we waited for the President's arrival..

As soon as the plane landed, we were led to our positions beneath the wing of the plane, where the traveling press was gathering. (A group of journalists travels with the president on Air Force One, and they came down the back stairs while the front stairs were prepared for Bush's exit.) After the local politicians greeted Bush, we all piled into our Press vans and followed the motorcade to a local briefing. From there, we ran to a helicopter for Bush's aerial tour of the flooded areas. The other photographers had clearly done this many times, and all had the best seats on the helicopter -- closest to the window. As soon as we had taken off, we all stood up and gathered around the open window to photograph Marine One's tour. With six still photographers and two videographers, it was a tight fit. I found myself shooting between someone's elbow at one point, and at others, cringing every time my camera or elbow hit the Time photographer in the head.

After a few stops on the ground in Iowa City, we were taken back to the airport in Cedar Rapids for Air Force One's departure. The other photographers used every spare second to download their cards and begin editing.. the editing continued as they crouched under the wing of the plane and waited for the president's departure.

It was an absolutely insane pace all day, and certainly different to see the destruction from the air (and in an air-conditioned briefing room) than to be walking through the muck. When I got back to the office, the fast pace continued as I edited 1400 images down to 22 to transmit to AP, UPI, Bloomberg, EPA and a few other media organizations. I'll post later on the actual coverage of the president's visit.


CR flood, downtown, Tuesday

Yesterday I explored downtown for the first time since Thursday. (That day, my hip waders weren't high enough to keep the water out. Yesterday, I was ankle-deep in flood muck at times, but I was dry and relatively clean, compared to some of the workers.)

An Uncle Sam incarnation of American Gothic stands guard over the Freedom Festival office as water pumps in the street empty out basements.

The Paramount's Wurlitzer organ was toppled over in the flood, and the orchestra pit cover lifted onto the buckled stage. The percussion instruments managed to be moved to higher ground before the flood, but the organ wasn't so lucky. This is a local treasure that I'm sure many people hope will be salvaged and restored. (Also: theatres lit with a single open door become even more dramatic in photographs.)

City Hall seems to have escaped major damage, and the Grant Wood stained glass (another local treasure) is intact.

This tablecloth from Zins reminds me of learning how to print in the darkroom in high school.. we could place object on the paper and expose the paper to light, leaving white spaces where the objects were. In this case, the silverware and napkin left their mark as the mud settled around them.

The king at Little King Deli helpfully points out the high water mark on the side of the restaurant. It's well above my head.

The Piano Lounge hopes to salvage some of their steel furniture. Barstools were lined up along the street to dry.

Down in the lounge, which is in a basement, employees and volunteers were wading through the muck (a mixture of liquor, ceiling tiles and floodwater, I'm guessing) to remove the furniture.


CR flood, Czech Village

Since they couldn't continue in the residential area of Czech Village, the team made their way to the business district of the village. The streets were littered with antiques from the antique stores on 16th Avenue.

CR flood, Czech Village homes

As I walked with strike team, I would occasionally wander off a bit to photograph the damage to the homes in the Southwest Cedar Rapids Czech Village neighborhood. Obviously, this is just a glimpse of what we'll see in the weeks to come as the water continues to go down.

This garage had floated down the street and bumped up against this house. Water lines on the homes show you how far the water has gone down, but there's still quite a bit left.

Someone is missing a back deck.. and a rather nice one, at that. It looks like the water picked it up and deposited it in this front yard, nearly intact.

Washed-out basements were startlingly common in some neighborhoods.

CR flood, Strike Team, Monday

I woke up at dawn Monday to meet up with the teams assembling to check homes for structural damage and potential occupants who stayed behind (and sincerely hoping not to come across any DOA's). (I had gone out with them Sunday as well, but Monday we went to a much harder hit area. So Sunday will the the missing day from this series of posts.) Because these areas are still on lockdown, going in with these strike teams gives us the first look at the damage, a day before the areas are opened up for residents to come back and begin the long process of cleaning up.

A search and rescue dog went along with each team. Talyn was pretty much the coolest dog ever.. he kept depositing sticks at our feet, waiting for us to throw them. The team members would do a search of the perimeter of the house, looking through windows to check on the floor before they would decide to force entry into the home. Electric and gas company workers were also part of the team, making sure utilities were shut off at each house.

Homes marked with an X are safe to reenter. Homes with a box and a line are unsafe.

At C Street SW, the water was too high for the team to continue working. Until a block is dry, they can't tell if the homes are safe or not. While not knowing the status of their home is incredibly frustrating for the residents, these teams are doing what they can to ensure that returning to the homes is safe. Several homes have lost parts of their foundation, or parts of their floor, so those homes aren't being cleared for reentry.


On the Senate floor

Senator Tom Harkin used some of our photos in a presentation to the US Senate today. Harkin's office sent us a screen grab of the senator using my photo of May's Island and downtown in the presentation. Neat!


CR flood, Friday

Photo intern Courtney Sargent and I were on the early flood shift.. I had been on the west side of town for two days, where residences seem hardest hit, so I handed that side off to Courtney while I began walking the east side of the river. What we encountered was.. a real slowing-down. The river was expected to crest Friday afternoon (and it did, above 31 feet, well above the 20-foot record, and five feet above where it was expected to crest), so now it's mostly a matter of waiting. I climbed to the top of the Mercy Hospital parking garage (four flights of stairs in chest waders is a great workout, by the way) to check out the scene from above, then took the wrong door down and ended up in the hospital, where they were setting up sump pumps to keep the ground floor as dry as possible. The hospital had been evacuated over night.

After getting back to the office and filing, I headed up in GazComm president Chuck Peters' Cessna for a view of the flooding from above. I alternated between being utterly astounded at what I was seeing, and wishing I hadn't eaten such a big breakfast.

Cedar Rapids from above... you can see that all of our bridges are impassible, except the interstate bridge, which is down to two lanes to allow emergency crews through.

Most of Palo is under water.. we have been unable to get there for a couple days now because the roads leading into town are under water. This photo is only one small part of town..

The Iowa River is also flooding right now, and hasn't reached its crest yet. You can see its border snaking through the trees. The farmland and forest near the river have been swallowed by the backwaters as the river nears the Coralville Reservoir.

The reservoir overflowed the spillway earlier this week, meaning there is now no control over its flow. A levee was breached along the Coralville strip Thursday night, leaving the main business district under water.

Iowa City's City Park is right along the river, and is now completely under water. The merry-go-round was a bright spot amidst the muddy floodwater.

I've run out of adjectives.