Not Loving That Dirty Water
June 12, 2008 1:16 PM   Subscribe

Hoping for the best for Mefites in eastern Iowa. I was CR born and raised, and just watching the feed on KCRG is ...disturbing. It looks like the height of the Cedar River is estimated at 25.4 feet, and it hasn't crested yet. They've lost a railroad bridge downtown so far, and the news feed keeps tracking the rise of the river by standing outside the studio and watching the water approaching.

Of course, it's not just Cedar Rapids. They're going to close 30 miles of I-80 (the highway that runs from New Jersey to San Fransisco). They're evacuating areas of Corralville. Vinton is under water. They're being asked to not flush the toilets in Decorah.

Stay dry, people.
posted by thanotopsis (53 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Remember this all happening in '93. I was at U of I. Every damn day it would be 95 and sunny. About 6:30 at night, if you looked off to the west, you'd see the biggest damn line of thunderstorms since, . . . last night. They'd show up around 7:45 or 8 pm and it would rain and storm way past bedtime. I'd wake up to hot and sunny again. This literally happened like 40 days in a row. By the end of it, every river within 500 miles, including the Mighty Mississippi was flooding higher than ever.

Hang in there.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:21 PM on June 12, 2008

I was just about to post the following on the main page, but I'll post it here for more information and to avoid doubles:

Iowa is experiencing a devastating 500 year flood - just 15 years after the great 100 year flood of 1993.

Cedar Rapids is hardest hit with the river that flows through the town cresting above flood protection. Roads, bridges, homes, and businesses are being washed away. The water treatment plants fight to stay operational, as do the hospitals. Electricity goes on and off as grids are damaged or turned off for safety reasons. Internet service is down or likely to go down in much of the area and 911 service is gone. Evacuations continue.

In Des Moines, the capital city is bracing for the highest water levels to arrive later this week. Manhole covers are being secured to stop water from flowing through the streets, and residents watch as city parks and low lying areas slowly fill with water. City officials have indicated that despite work to improve the levees after the 1993 floods, the new record water levels will likely overwhelm the protections and flood parts of the city.

South of Cedar Rapids and East of Des Moines, Iowa City and Coralville watch as water has started pouring over the Coralville Reservoir's spillway. An estimated 40,000 gallons per second will gush from the reservoir within the next 24 hours, far exceeding the mere 28,000 gallons per second that cause devastation in 1993. Evacuations have been moved forward as residents and the remaining University Students struggle to fill enough sand bags to stop the rushing water. Nearly 1.8 million sandbags have been deployed in Iowa over the last week.

Rain is predicted over the next several days. In recent weeks an F5 tornado devastated Parkersburg. Last night a tornado hit a boyscout camp in Iowa, killing 4 young boys.
posted by Muddler at 1:22 PM on June 12, 2008

Wow crazy. It flooded in Ames a few weeks ago, but only in a few areas that were basically a flood plain anyway. Seeing the downtown area of CR flooded like that is pretty insane. I was just down there last month visiting a friend.
posted by delmoi at 1:25 PM on June 12, 2008

double post I think, I was just working on mine...heh.

Crazy weather here.
posted by sararah at 1:26 PM on June 12, 2008

Where are the people with the buckets full of Heiniken? Amateurs.

( careful out there.)
posted by ColdChef at 1:28 PM on June 12, 2008

They must mean 500 years in Internet Time. So maybe the Climate Changes aren't from Global Warming but rather Global Speeding Up.

Seriously, my heart goes out to everyone in Iowa and the other affected states. Except for those who believed Katrina was God punishing New Orleans.
posted by wendell at 1:28 PM on June 12, 2008

Ironmouth, I was curious about 1993 -- I was only 11 and living in Eastern SoDak at the time...I don't remember it storming like it has been this year, but just remember constant rain. Interesting to see that it was stormy then as well (in Iowa). Reading the 1993 floods Wikipedia post is like dejavu.
posted by sararah at 1:30 PM on June 12, 2008

I grew up in Clinton, on the widest part of the mississippi. The 93 floods were devastating. These are looking to be much worse. My sister, who lives in cedar rapids, has left. sigh.

Midwest love to all you.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:33 PM on June 12, 2008

My son still has his T-shirt in a box somewhere from when he was 9 mos. old, back in 1993. "I survived the great flood of 1993" it says, with a duck pictured holding up an inner tube. They sold them at the same grocery stores where a week before they were sold out of clean drinking water.
posted by thanotopsis at 1:36 PM on June 12, 2008

sararah's chock-full-of-linkage double, for posterity.
posted by cortex at 1:40 PM on June 12, 2008

Thanks, cortex.
posted by sararah at 1:41 PM on June 12, 2008

Is there anywhere you can go to see actual maps of where the floods are supposed to hit?
posted by delmoi at 1:43 PM on June 12, 2008

I think I stayed in Cedar Rapids once - is there an old mill on the river that has been turned into a restaurant (and has a fabulous Sunday Brunch)? There's some low-end chain motel very close to it.
posted by desjardins at 1:45 PM on June 12, 2008

I don't want to sound insensitive because the people of Iowa have a lot of problems to overcome right now, but I hope this doesn't badly affect RAGBRAI next month.
posted by ardgedee at 1:54 PM on June 12, 2008

There was a snarky blog post about that that I caught on the Des Moines Register website this morning. RAGBRAI is still a month away, and I think we're all hoping it will be done raining by then. I am hoping to do a day of RAGBRAI myself, and we are all lamenting that we have not been able to go canoeing yet this year. Other people are having much, much bigger troubles on their hands, so you can only be a little whiny about it.
posted by sararah at 1:57 PM on June 12, 2008

Mason City is finally recovering from record-shattering floods with fingers crossed. We thought we had it bad, but now it just pales in comparison to the shitstorm CR is facing. Anyone else usually ignore the flash flood warnings because you don't think it applies to you?
posted by cellphone at 2:10 PM on June 12, 2008

Here's my deleted post that cortex linked to above:

It has been a nasty spring in the upper midwest. 1993 was supposed to be the "big one"...turns out this time it's worse for Iowa.

In Iowa, the fun started three weeks ago with an EF5 tornado killing 8 people in Parkersburg and New Hartford, Iowa (Previous MeFi). Last night, 4 boy scouts died in a tornado in Western Iowa. On May 30th, Ames experienced significant flooding.

Currently Iowa is awaiting the cresting of the Des Moines and Cedar Rivers in Central and Eastern Iowa. I-80 is going to close near Iowa City, possibly for several days. Almost 10,000 people have been evacuated in Cedar Falls, where they are without power and 911.

To many, this is fly-over country. Corn country, some say. But when 55 out of 99 counties have been declared disaster areas, you have to wonder how it will affect grain prices in the already stressed out economy. Corn most certainly will not be knee-high by the 4th of July.

Governor Culver says Iowans will persevere, but you can't deny it feels a
bit like the apocalypse around here lately.
posted by sararah at 2:11 PM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

I've been thinking about you guys up in Mason City, cellphone. Glad to see your water is back online, even though you can't drink it yet. Hope you didn't lose anything.
posted by sararah at 2:13 PM on June 12, 2008

I know the US is a big country, but it always amazes me that the Midwest can be eyeballs-deep in water while California is having a drought. I guess it kinda says something about my lack of perspective. Iowa, if you've got too much, send some water our way!

Seriously though, good luck Midwest.
posted by lekvar at 2:14 PM on June 12, 2008

See what happens when you vote for Obama?

(I kid, I kid. Stay safe, everyone).
posted by at 2:17 PM on June 12, 2008

IIRC, the Midwest had been in the middle of a drought for a few years, but we have tons of water around so it never seems as bad (so far).
posted by drezdn at 2:19 PM on June 12, 2008

I spent a good portion of yesterday exploring and photographing Waukesha, Wisconsin where the Fox river has overflown it's banks and shut down down street after street in the downtown area. There were cop cars and police tape everywhere as they tried to direct people away from the most dangerous of areas.

We've spent the last week ducking and covering from tornado warning after tornado warning, and we are now hearing that our water may be unsafe because of crypto.

And from what the news is showing, it's not even close to what Iowa has got going on.

I don't envy the residents, and I certainly wish them well.
posted by quin at 2:26 PM on June 12, 2008

I look at the footage and I can't get my head around it. Here in Helsinki, we simply do not have floods like this. I try to imagine how I'd feel if this was happening here, and it's just impossible.

Best of luck to everyone in the area.
posted by Anything at 2:28 PM on June 12, 2008

yeah I have been noticing that every time in the past few weeks they call for heavy weather in Chicago, it mostly passes by to the north, and WI gets rampaged. Although until the Lake Delton incident, I didn't realize it was that bad.
posted by ninjew at 2:31 PM on June 12, 2008

Flickr set of Cedar Rapids flood photos.

Jesus. Take care, everyone. I'm sending dry California thoughts your way.
posted by rtha at 2:35 PM on June 12, 2008

I'm in St. Louis. This scares me.

posted by limeonaire at 2:39 PM on June 12, 2008

We watched the wall as it moved over the Missouri in to Iowa. I've lived in the Midwest most of my life but the wall cloud formation last night was breathtaking. It is weird to be thankful for only getting 4" of rain per the rain gage in the backyard. Folks just north and a little west were getting 2.5" diameter hail and this was the last thing that the folks in Iowa needed. I remember visiting a friend in Davenport during the 1993 flood and his downtown flat had suddenly become beach front property.

Awe-inspiring stuff. Good luck you damned Iowegians.
posted by Fezboy! at 2:41 PM on June 12, 2008

I started college in Iowa City in 1993, but I only saw a bit of the aftermath of the flooding during orientation. It was clear the city was traumatized by the experience.

Coralville earned its name that year. When the dam overflowed, the water rushing down the spillway carried away the earth, eroding it down to the bedrock and exposing the fossils of 300-million-year-old sea creatures. It was a great opportunity for all the locals to view them close-up. Apparently water is rushing over that same spillway right now.

I also got my first research job out of that flood. There was a great deal of criticism directed toward the Army Corps of Engineers, who manage the Coralville dam. Many felt that better waterflow policies could have reduced the damage to Iowa City. A couple of physics profs acquired reservoir inflow and outflow data covering the previous 100 years. They wrote a simulation allowing them to experiment with alternate dam control policies and determine the resulting downstream impacts. I wrote the GUI (using MSVC++ 1.0!) I hope someone learned something from that project.

As an aside, I'm pretty startled to hear a CRANDIC train went into the river. In 98-99 or so I lived right next to the CRANDIC rail yard in Iowa City. They honked horns all day and night right outside my building, and I grew to hate them. Later that year a tornado blew the train off the IC bridge, halting the line for a few days. I'm somewhat embarrassed to remember how happy I was about that.
posted by rlk at 2:48 PM on June 12, 2008

Here's my Ames flooding photos from two weeks ago.

There is still plenty of water upstream of the Des Moines River, and Central/Eastern Iowa just got another 2-?? inches of rain last night (I think some places got up to 4-5" in Eastern Iowa) It's been stressful just watching the news, I can't imagine being caught up in it (although I almost could when the water was about a block away from my house two weeks ago...)
posted by sararah at 2:50 PM on June 12, 2008

Please do be careful, everyone, especially those that are in it.

The weather in the midwest has been really crazy the past couple of weeks, especially in the Iowa area. A tornado from the same cell hit Manhattan, Kansas, and the surrounding area last night as well, killing three and destroying part of Kansas State. June tornadoes and floods are always strange.

Also, as an aside, here's an approximation of the conversation I had with my grandma last week when I called my parents' house in southeast Kansas:

*me wondering why my mom sounds much older when she says hello*
"Grandma, why are you at mom and dad's?"

"Well, my house is flooded, so I'm going to be here for a few weeks, at least, until they can dry it out."

"Holy shit."

"Yeah. Shit is right."
posted by sleepy pete at 3:21 PM on June 12, 2008

I have some photos from the ames flood as well, but I havn't uploaded them. Hopefully I can do that later today.
posted by delmoi at 4:12 PM on June 12, 2008

i got sucked into that feed and have been watching for 2 hours. that's some fucked up shit. and tonight it's storming like crazy again and dumping out even more water. friend of mine remarked "this is the heartland katrina".
posted by quonsar at 4:56 PM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the kind words everyone. Iowa City is already crazy, I can't imagine the Iowa river going up 7 more feet, which it's supposed to by Tuesday. I'm going to go grab a hat, so I can hold the fuck on to it.
posted by anomie at 6:34 PM on June 12, 2008

Good luck, anomie. Are there any predictions out there regarding what buildings will be affected? Like the Old Capitol, etc?

I have a few friends out there, and I haven't heard anything good, but I haven't heard anything bad.
posted by sararah at 7:13 PM on June 12, 2008

The Memorial Union is being prepared for flooding. I guess they boxed up the entire bookstore and took it to higher ground. They're closing the building down tomorrow night. The Main Library is also threatened. If it gets to the Old Capitol we're all in a lot of trouble. Everywhere.

The water's predicted to rise another seven feet here. It's crushing to see homes with water starting to trickle over four-foot of sandbag dikes, all the sweat and hope that went in to building those things, and know that not only was it for nothing, but the stuff they put on the second floor isn't even going to be safe.

Iowa City (and I'm sure every other threatened town) looks like it's preparing for battle. All of downtown Cedar Rapids is without power. The hospitals there are on backup generators. Qwest will be shutting down its equipment and moving to higher ground sometime soon, leaving thousands without internet access across the region.

And it's still raining.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 7:42 PM on June 12, 2008

From the Des Moines Register:

The first house Gina Rebitz lost was to the tornado that hit New Hartford last month [previously].

The second was one she had lived in for only one day in downtown New Hartford. On Sunday, she fled from it when floodwaters began rising.

"I moved in Saturday, moved out Sunday," said Rebitz, who took nothing with her but her car when she left as the water reached the headlights. "I've just lost everything. Everything."

In the tornado, she lost her motorcycle, truck and cat, Ziggy. In the flood of 2008 she lost everything else, including all the new furniture she bought after the tornado.

posted by the christopher hundreds at 7:54 PM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here's a blog of UI-related closures. It looks like mostly buildings in that flood plane area. I was surprised that they closed Hawkeye Court Apartments, but I guess it is at a pretty low level. The Old Capitol is above the flood plane, so if it gets flooded, we're talking epic "get out the Ark and start collecting animals" flooding.

Man, I moved to Iowa City the year after a tornado hit, then moved away about a year before the tornado of '06 (I used to live across the street from St. Patrick's Church). My tenure there was pretty uneventful, other than a couple of minor earthquakes. Maybe I should move back. I seem to have had a calming influence.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:08 PM on June 12, 2008

Muddler writes "Iowa is experiencing a devastating 500 year flood"

500! I can't even imagine what that would be around here. The only data is for 200 year levels. It would probably take out at least one of the bridges though which would be manageable. If the wrong pair went though the town would be split in two. It'd be devastating for the whole region (especially considering our bridges probably wouldn't be the only ones at that point). Several of the smaller communities which no longer have a resource base for existence would probably never recover.
posted by Mitheral at 8:28 PM on June 12, 2008

I just talked to a friend of mine who lives in CR (who I was visiting just last month, we went to the YMCA, which is now partially submerged!)

Apparently she spent most of the day helping her friend move his stuff to higher floors in his apartment, she said his back yard was like a swamp.

I'm uploading my pictures from the ames flood a couple weeks ago to flickr here. It was obviously nothing like what's going on in CR.
posted by delmoi at 9:08 PM on June 12, 2008

This is heartbreaking. I've been watching the feed for the last hour, and I'm amazed by the number of volunteers who showed up to sandbag around the local hospitals.

Also, where's FEMA? I haven't heard them mentioned once since I started watching.
posted by maryh at 10:27 PM on June 12, 2008

Like Ironmouth and others, I was in Iowa City at U of I during the flood of '93. I thought that was bad (early morning frantic sandbagging... hoarding water in the bathtub... receding water leaving dead fish behind in parking lots... hepatitis shots...), but this is of another magnitude. Hang in there, everyone.
posted by scody at 11:12 PM on June 12, 2008

This is heartbreaking.
Indeed. I was in IC only five weeks ago and just reading your comments and the articles, let alone seeing the pictures, is making my eyes water.

It's probably a good thing I can't reach any of the video feeds, especially the one posted by dirigibleman, or I'd be out-and-out crying at work.
posted by whatzit at 1:43 AM on June 13, 2008

"this is the heartland katrina".

Luckily there're fewer black people out there, so Bush might care.
posted by inigo2 at 7:06 AM on June 13, 2008

Some shots of downtown Cedar Rapids.
posted by thanotopsis at 11:20 AM on June 13, 2008

Also, where's FEMA? I haven't heard them mentioned once since I started watching.
posted by maryh at 12:27 AM on June 13 [+] [!]

If you believe their website:

"FEMA continues working with the State of Iowa to respond to ongoing flooding and the tornado that caused several fatalities and injured 48 people."
posted by ZakDaddy at 12:11 PM on June 13, 2008

Wow -- GoDaddy just donated $100K to relief efforts.
posted by at 4:46 PM on June 13, 2008

I remember '93 just like you, Ironmouth - hot and humid as a mother during the day and thunderstorms with tornado watches at night.

I'm from an area right in the middle of Cedar Rapids/Tama/Cedar Falls and have been following up on the flooding with with my parents. My dad was able to get most of his crops in but wasn't able to plant the last field because the roads to get there had water over them. He was telling me that the farmers who got their crops in will at least get insurance money for the crops that have been washed away, but the farmers who didn't get their crops in at all are somewhat up the creek, pun intended. I'm also curious what this will do to the corn/soybean prices and I hope that they are sky high so the farmers can at least break even after all this unfortunate flooding.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette has some powerful images of the flood, some of which are user-submitted, and I've been checking the KCRG (SO MUCH better than Channel 2!) and Des Moines Register sites as well.

Will be heading home for a week in July and it sounds like there will be plenty of clean up to volunteer with at that time. There have been several articles in The Gazette telling of how thousands of people have been volunteering over the last few days wherever there is a need. It makes me SO PROUD to be from there! :)

I'm curious how Governor Culver is handling this - sounds like he's doing a good job of getting out there and being involved first hand.
posted by lolalivia at 7:23 PM on June 13, 2008

Culver's visible, which is positive. I think everyone's learned the lesson of Katrina and the various government fiefdoms are working together. Not that things are terribly fiefy in Iowa. The big lug's real test comes when the waters recede and everything has to be cleaned, rebuilt, and paid for. He's got the potential to change some perceptions about his mental capacity. This could be one of the best things to happen to him politically, after being born to a US Senator and marrying his wife.

We've left Iowa City. Our home is in no danger, but with all the roads closing and the potential for loss of power and water, there was no reason to stay.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:16 PM on June 13, 2008

Hello from Des Moines. I've taken on an evacuee from downtown and we're high and dry on Sherman Hill. I took some photos of the Des Moines River a few hours before what I believe was the crest.
posted by TrialByMedia at 4:10 AM on June 14, 2008

Boston.Com Big Picture blog on the flood. The picture of the police officers controlling access is surreal.
posted by Mitheral at 6:26 PM on June 17, 2008

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