Additional University of Iowa flood stories are moving to fyi, the University's faculty and staff news site. For flood recovery information and resources, visit the UI Flood Recovery Site.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"The river that divided us will unite us"

UI alumnus Andrew Shaffer (’04 BA, ’08 MBA) provided this account of flood preparations in Iowa City:

"I was part of a volunteer crew sandbagging water department facilities near the dog park. When we thought we were finished with the effort, new estimates and calculations forced us to stack sandbags higher and wider. As we shoveled the sand, we tossed around terms like 'cfs' and 'outflow' like amateur hydrologists. I don’t think anyone fully comprehended what a 'crest of 716.8 feet' really meant, however, until the pictures of downtown Cedar Rapids started to make the rounds. Even though we were under siege from a different river than our brothers and sisters up north, it was clear that Iowa City was next.

With reported road and bridge closures streaming in hourly, Iowa City became a city geographically divided. One evening, I called Iowa City’s 'flood hotline' for directions to the temporary pet shelter at the Johnson County Fairgrounds. The operator suggested taking Riverside Drive south of Highway One. 'I’m there, and it’s flooded now,' I said, exasperated. 'What am I going to do with a trunk full of dog food? I don’t even have a dog!' Thankfully an alternate route on Highway 218 proved to be the ticket.

Just like with Iowa City’s tornado of 2006, we were lucky to once again escape disaster with a minimal loss of life in our state. The economic impact, of course, will be felt for some time. But always remember how lucky we were: As I type this, AP reports are surfacing about a flood in Guangdong, China that has killed at least 50. This comes after an earthquake killed 70,000 in China little more than a month ago.

For now, the sandbagging has stopped and the storms have passed. The water level is slowly dropping from its crest of 717 feet above sea level. I have hope that, as a community, we will come together for the recovery efforts just as we did during the height of the flood. Could anyone have foreseen the hundreds of students and residents working side-by-side to save the city? I believe that the river that divided us will unite us for the long road ahead."

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