June 30, 2008

Iowa Flood Thoughts

It has been a hectic couple of weeks here at the Salmon shack. The flood of course has disrupted the normal flow of summer for most people to some extent but I would like to take a few minutes to jot down a few disjointed thoughts before it all becomes just a distant memory...

One theme that I hear time and again from the people that were hit by the floodwater's was the fact that despite the warnings they never in their wildest dreams feared that their homes would be under water. I called my aunt on Tuesday night and offered to bring over the truck and move her out but she felt sure they would be all right. She left with her dogs and literally the clothes on her back thinking they would be back in the morning. By Wednesday she had five foot of water in her living room. Of the 10-12,000 people in the flood zone, less than a thousand had to be evacuated by authorities. More proof of the 90-10 rule. Ten percent of people cause 90 percent of the problems.

I have been thoroughly impressed by the reaction of the city officials in dealing with this catastrophe. The evacuation and return to the areas has been orderly, well controlled, and organized. There of course was some grumbling by folks waiting in line at the checkpoints when they began to let residents back in but again the 90-10 rule applies. FEMA, The Red Cross, the National Guard, and the hundreds of volunteers have all been outstanding. There were no deaths in Cedar Rapids and only a few arrests. Someone did break into my cousins house and stole a generator but reports are that looting has been rare which I believe is a reflection on the people of this community.

A sense of humor is certainly needed to deal with the destruction.

As I drove down F Avenue toward the river last Wednesday I was struck by the fact that you could smell the destruction before you could see it. The stench was overwhelming in the flooded area. As we entered my aunts house I can only say that her home looked like someone filled it with mud and turned on a blender. We recovered what we could that first day but the idea that her little house could ever be repaired seemed out of the question. It was later confirmed that the house would have to be demolished.

On the bright side. The determination of the residents to get into their houses was amazing. Of course while their are those that will probably just walk away, the majority of residents were in there removing a lifetime of belongings and beginning the process of recovery. By Saturday it was nearly impossible to find a place to park with the army of friends, family, and volunteers that descended on the area to help the residents with the monumental and heart wrenching task of hauling everything you own to the curb. It is hard to descibe the feelings of sadness at the losses and the the overwhelming task of cleaning it all up while at the same time feeling pride in our neighbors for the job they were doing it trying to make it right again.

The city has made a herculean effort to remove the tons of debris to the landfill as people began to strip the walls and floors of their homes. I spent Saturday at my cousins stripping plaster and lathe and flooring and woodwork from her house as they are determined to rebuild while many of the houses around here with structural damage will surely be razed.

Sunday we were to meet FEMA at my aunts house and I took some time to drive downtown to survey the damage there. Having spent the last few days in the Ellis Blvd. area it was easy to forget the scope of the damage. As I drove down 6th St once again I came face to face with the devastation and of course the majority of the people that lost so much are the ones that have so little to begin with. Downtown looked like a war zone as an army of workers try to restore the businesses that were lost to the floodwater's.

The shear power of the river was unimaginable. The pilings that had held the railroad bridge over the river at 8th Ave. were literally rocked from their foundations by the force of the river. The amount of debris plastered to the face of all the down town bridges was equally astounding. Particularly the hundreds of blue plastic drums from the houseboats that broke free of their moorings in Ellis park boat harbor

While our little world revolves around Cedar Rapids there was of course devastation along the entire length of the Cedar River. In Charles City one of my fondest childhood memories is crossing the swinging bridge that was built across the Cedar in 1906. I took my daughter there just last month when we attended Aunt Toni's funeral so she could see where her dad used to play as a kid. Sadly, the Swinging Bridge in gone.

Other Reactions:

The people of Iowa have suffered greatly in the past week as their rivers have over-flowed their banks, and as town after town after town has been put under historically deep, stinking, brown water.

And the people of Iowa will smile; they will shrug their shoulders; they will not complain that the government has abandoned them; the will not rush to the over-passes of highways and hold screaming press conferences decrying the Bush Administration; they will not wonder where the National Guard is, for they do not want the national guard there. They will instead shoulder their burden; wait for the waters to recede; pick up their brooms, their shovels, their hoses and buckets and rags and get to work cleaning up after the nation’s “attack.”

They will not rant; they will work. They won’t scream; they will work. They won’t call down the heavens upon the government. They will work. They won’t look to Washington, or even much toward Des Moines; rather they will look to each other and they will work.

God Bless these people, for this is America at its best. This is the Midwest where we grew up, and our friends grew up, and our (children) go to school. This is not Katrina. This is Katrina’s anti-thesis.
(Author Unknown)

The satire of Iowa Hawk "Flood Ravaged Iowans Idiotically Move On"

"So there you have it: a 500-year, gold plated, biblical grade flood, and all I have to show for it is a sore back and a basement full of soggy rental stereo equipment. This tragedy has been brought to you by a negligent government and an indifferent media. And most of all, my neighbors: 3 million stoic, self reliant, hard working morons who can't figure out a million dollar opportunity when they're waist deep in it.. And they wonder why they call us "Idiots Out Walking Around.""

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