The Great Flood of 2008

Posted on: June 13th, 2008 by Craig Rairdin 5 Comments

A few of you have written to ask how we’re doing given all the flooding going on here in Cedar Rapids. We appreciate your concern. We’re all doing well.

A couple of interesting points. First is the media. Someone reported hearing one of the cable news channels refer to Cedar Rapids as “the city they said would never flood”. We don’t know who said that; the Cedar River overflows its banks fairly regularly in some areas of town. Normal level of the river is around 4′ at the point they measure it. Water begins affecting low-lying roads in some areas at 9.5′. The long-term prediction last month said there was as much as a 50-50 chance that we’d see water as high as 9.6′ this week based on just normal forecasted precipitation.

On the other hand, this is quite an event. Our last big flood was in 1993. 12′ is considered flood stage, with 16′ considered a major flood. In 1993 we hit 19.27′, which was just short of “the big one” which was 20′ in 1851. The river as I type is at 31.12′. That’s a lot of water.

Good Morning America was here this morning and reported that the entire city was under water. This came from a reporter (Sam Champion) who got in a fight with police because he wanted to stand waste-deep in the water to do his report. So clearly he could see dry land from where he was at, and that’s where the police wanted him to stand.

All this to say that you shouldn’t take the media seriously on anything they report.

My second point is political. After Katrina (clearly a more massive disaster than what we face here) there was a lot of complaining about the response of government. It was clear that the local and state government were completely unprepared for the scale of disaster they faced. Here in Cedar Rapids it is very clear that the local government, medical facilities, and utility companies are calmly executing their disaster plans. While a few idiots have had to be “rescued” from their houses after ignoring the mandatory evacuation orders, there is adequate shelter (including pets), transportation, and food to meet the need. I think it emphasizes the importance of handling local problems locally and not depending on the federal government to come in with their sledgehammer to fix problems better addressed with thumb tacks.

If you’re interested in seeing what’s happening, check out Jeff has posted some pictures at I have posted some aerial views at my personal Web site.

Thanks again for your concern and prayers. While we’ve had extensive loss of property there has been no loss of life of which I’m aware, not even any major injuries.

5 Responses

  1. Kevin Purcell says:

    Glad to hear you are well and we are praying for the entire area. Being an Iowa born boy I have been interested in this. God bless you and may he give you an opportunity to serve others.

  2. Ed Hansberry says:

    Wow. I knew about the flooking and knew you guys were located in Iowa, but hadn’t put two and two together until your post. I am glad everyone is ok and I’ll keep all of you in my prayers.

  3. Ashleigh Harold says:

    Very glad that you all are doing well.

    BTW, the Katrina comparison in somewhat inadequate. Although the local and state governments could have done a better job, the issues of scale, frequency of occurrence and likeliness of occurrence were quite different in the Katrina situation. You pointed out in your that the scale of the disaster of the flood is not the same as the Katrina hurricane and that those of us who live along rivers are accustomed to the flooding that frequently forces people out of their homes and damages towns.

    As a girl from St. Louis, I’m used to hearing about flooding in some of the small outlying towns. If the big one hits and floods downtown St. Louis, uh oh. I think my city would be prepared, but it would be a big deal because the city never floods (although the Mississippi was closing to topping out those flood walls in ’93)

    As someone who had a sister flee Katrina and lose her home in the disaster, I am keenly aware of the complexity of that situation. It indeed was political. The outcry was also the slowness of response. The federal government frequently offers assistance in disasters of that scale. And when it was clear that the local governments could not handle the situation, it was time for someone to step in. We as Christians and as humans who are privileged to walk this earth are called to care for one another. While the federal, local, and state governments were tussling over responsibility and jurisdiction, there were thousands of people left without care from anyone. Sorry I get your put there is no comparison.

    My sister at the urging of my mother thankfully left New Orleans right before the levees failed. She was used to hurricanes so she was going to ride it out. Thank God for mother’s wisdom or that could have been my sister living in squalor in the Superdome.

  4. Ashleigh,

    While I agree that what we’re experiencing is nowhere near the size of the Katrina disaster, there are some reasonable comparisons that can be made.

    For example, we have low-lying areas that are flooded every few years, just as New Orleans experiences hurricanes or the side-effects of hurricanes every few years. They don’t have direct hits but once in a lifetime, just as we (and St Louis) don’t have floods that exceed our levees but once in a lifetime.

    They have more people, but they have more resources as well. Governments in other cities and states have hurricane recovery plans. Florida regularly executes such plans without ensuing complaints about inadequate preparation by government. I was pleased to discover that our local government apparently has such plans in place and was able to execute them quickly and efficiently.

    That was really the only point of comparison. Because the locals here were seeing a handful of people being rescued from their flooded homes by boat, comparisons were made locally to Katrina. I picked just the idea of preparedness to comment on with respect to the two situations, not intending to imply that they were really comparable or related. The impression that I have is that our local government was more prepared for this situation — a situation that city officials could’ve reasonably said would never happen in their lifetime — than was the local government of New Orleans for Katrina. That’s the extent of my comparison.

    My other point was that it’s better to handle local problems locally to the greatest extent possible. If you screw up the local response, the federal response isn’t going to be able to make up for it. I think that was the message of Katrina and fortunately we haven’t had to test it here.

  5. Rev. Cecilia says:

    We’re thankful that everyone in your area is ok. I also didn’t put two and two together. We’ll keep praying.

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