Thursday, June 12, 2008

Come Hell or High Water

Here in Iowaville and really the entire state of Iowa, talk of '93 is dying down in a bad way. 1993 was the year in which a flood of biblical proportions flooded much of the state. I say the talk is dying down in a bad way is because we are surpassing the levels of that flood by three and four feet and that was before the six plus inches of rain that fell at the upper end of these river basins last night with more falling as I write this. Almost half of the counties in Iowa have been declared disaster areas.

All the spillways are overtopping some by several feet. The large majority of towns around me has been forced to evacuate to higher ground. Along the Des Moines, Ottumwa, Selma, Douds, Keosauqua, Bentonsport, Bonaparte, Farmington and on down to the Mississippi are flooded. Further up state on the Cedar, large cities like Cedar Rapids and Iowa City have evacuated back to the 500-year flood lines and beyond. Already people are saying that this flood will set THE record which is way back in the 1820's sometime and way before the dams were around. THE record was never supposed to be broken again or at least that was what the Corp of Engineers promised with the building of the dams.

Travel is difficult if not impossible around here which makes me scared. Almost all the roads around here cross rivers every few miles and most are underwater creating basically a series of islands in landlocked SE Iowa. I'm scared because my mother-in-law has been staying with me for the last two months and flies out of here tomorrow. I've probably said before that come hell or high water, she is going to make it to that plane on time. Well high water has definitely come and I've got the canoe loaded up already.

Thousands of people have shown up to sandbag but it is mostly a futile task. The levee systems that were built to channel the water are being overtopped meaning you have to stack your sandbags high to protect yourself from the onslaught and there just isn't enough sandbags to do that. Had the corp of engineers not built levees along the entire stretch of river leaving bottom ground available to flood and relieve the pressure, this wouldn't have happened but it has. Problem is, the lesson learned in '93 was to build the levees higher which further compounds the problem for those further downstream. Up in Iowa City, businesses asked employees to go sandbag for whatever their regular wages were. Despite hordes turning up, they weren't keeping up and began paying people on top of what they earned to volunteer. With six inches of rain falling upstream, I think it is all for not.

Waterloo Flood Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRM3KOHOHqk

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