A 2008 Flood

Flooding has hit the Midwest hard this past week. My home town, Cedar Rapids, IA, has been ravaged. The Cedar River runs through the middle of the city. All of downtown and the surrounding area is now under eight to twelve feet of water. One bridge has washed away and several others may collapse before the flood finishes devastating the city. The river is expected to crest at 36 feet above flood level today, thus breaking the 1929 record of 20 feet. However, rain continues in the Midwest and predictions of the crest have fallen short of the mark all week long. Hell, there were even flash flood warnings for Chicago last night.

I lived in Cedar Rapids, except for military service, from the time I was 9 until 36 years old. I look at the news pictures of the flooded city with amazement. It is one thing to see the river capture the city; it is another to know the places underwater intimately.

Back in the Fifties and Sixties the river overflowed its banks every spring, as I recall. Volunteer workers, the National Guard, Boy Scouts, and other groups filled sandbags along the river and tried to salvage parts of the business and residential areas. With the building of new levees and a modern combination bridge and spillway, the hope was that those days were over. This flood is deemed a five hundred year flood though.

When I woke at four this morning it was raining outside. I stepped out on the balcony and leaned on the railing; cool rain fell on my arms and face. The city was silent. I detected predawn light through the cloud cover. From the eleventh floor, I tried to imagine the streets below standing underneath twelve feet of water. I couldn’t.

I have two cities in my life both dear to me: Cedar Rapids and Chicago. I know people are wondering how towns like Cedar Rapids will ever recover from being ravaged. Chicago recovered from its great fire. Iowa is farm country. You grow crops every season. You rebuild what has been blown away and replant what has been washed away.

Life goes on mystically and magically.

Published in: on June 13, 2008 at 6:49 am  Leave a Comment  

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