I spent the late morning and early afternoon in Cedar Rapids’ Time Check neighborhood, which borders on the brown, bloated and roiling Cedar River, gathering stuff for my Thursday column. The Cedar’s threatened record crest could swamp this proud, working class area.
All eyes are on the levee. Gawkers are walking, jogging and riding on it, some carrying cameras to shoot snapshots of a river rising toward infamy. City crews are piling dirt on the levee and in the entrances of riverside parking lots, hoping to buy the neighborhood some precious time. Sandbag reinforcements have been promised by officials.
I ran into Roger Campbell and his wife Cynthia at a riverside overlook just before noon. He caught my attention because he was on a cell phone trying to convince someone to pack a bag and be ready to leave, “just in case.” Turns out it’s his 81-year-old mother who lives just blocks away.
“Of course, she was fighting with me,” Roger Campbell said. “If that dike breaks, it will flood all the way to Eighth Street.”
I know how some of the neighborhood folks feel about the levee. I’ve received calls from fed up Time Check residents who say the dike is too short and too weak and that the city has done too little about it. The city and the feds are funding a levee study as we speak, but that’s pretty hollow solace with a churning muddy onslaught now lapping at residents’ doorsteps.
I guess we’ll find out a lot about the levee’s deficiencies within the next 48 hours. Historic crest or not, the city may have some explaining to do.
They’re sandbagging around the recreation center, which workers there said was flooded in 1993’s fabled-but-now-upstaged flood. Several businesses standing face-to-face with the river on First Street are sandbagging as fast as they can. A big crew of sandbag-fillers at Sign Productions stopped their feverish work only long enough to dig into a pile of pizzas.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said David Lambert, draftsman turned sandman at Sign Productions.
They’re not going down without a fight, even as the city tacks leaflets on doors warning Time Check residents that they eventually will have to evacuate, and perhaps quickly.
But perhaps more striking than the river’s ominous rise and the buzz of activity was a sense of normalcy that held on for dear life. I found Bryan Moeller, who lives next to the levee, mowing his lawn. Well, I guess if the river’s coming for a visit, you might as well spruce up the place.
“What else can you do?” Moeller said.
Good question. Pray, I guess.
Here’s a link for the latest on Time Check flooding