Friday, May 31, 2013

It is raining in Iowa

Last January I wrote asking the question - "Are we in for a long dry summer?" Well it looks like
those concerns were ill-founded. It has been raining in Iowa for more than a week. In fact, it has been raining so much that now we are concerned about flooding. The river gauge downtown is at 17.1 feet. Flood stage in Cedar Rapids starts at 12 ft. When the river hits 16 ft. it is considered a "major flood".

This, of course, is just an historical reference. For those of us who where here in 2008, we know that even 17 ft is not all that bad. In 2008 we lived through the "Epic Surge" when the Cedar River crested at 31.2 ft. But that doesn't mean we aren't nervous today. It didn't rain today and the forecast is for just a 30% chance of rain tomorrow with no rain in sight until Tuesday. If that holds we will be good.

Right now the USGS is predicting the Cedar will crest at 19.9 ft on Sunday evening. If that happens it will be the fourth highest level ever recorded and only 0.1 ft below the floods of 1851 & 1929. That is significant and will cause problems. The water will be up to the deck of the Third Avenue bridge behind my store. We already have water seeping into the basement and that level will cause even more pressure in the ground water and more seepage into the building but as long as the pumps hold out we will be fine. The berm behind the store tops at 22 ft. and then the flood wall is good to about 26 ft.

The real story is about how the city will respond to this. I am hearing an interesting mixture of responses. Some are blase - this will be nothing like 2008 and nothing to worry about. But for others the memories are coming back strong. Some respond with fear, some just nervous - but I think most people I have spoken with are uncomfortable with the feelings rising up in the backs of our heads.

We don't want to see our city wiped out again. This is bringing back those memories of watching the center of our city float down the river. I remember watching the live feeds of the camera that one of the TV stations had mounted on their roof. My store was center in the picture and I watched as furniture and refrigerators and freezers floated out of the showroom windows and drifted away in the current. Who knew that a deep freeze chest made a good flotation device?

All we can do now is watch and wait. We will hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Oh yes, we have a contingency plan now. If the river hits 22 ft we will be moving everything up to the higher floors. But let's hope that doesn't happen. Let's hope this just goes down as a scare and not an event.

So for now, I will be thankful that we no longer have to deal with a drought. And to all of you
- I pray for peace.