The Great Flood of 2016
The past weekend felt like something out of a bad movie or those crazy stories you would have seen in the news—where mother nature takes out her wrath on a small town and its surrounding neighborhoods.
Never in my life would I feel like I would be caught in the middle of it until this past weekend.
The madness started this past Thursday, September 22nd, 2016. I was out of town for a conference in Iowa City, just about an hour and a half away from my Cedar Falls residence.
My wife was back and it’s always hard to leave her by herself knowing that she’s alone at night—we both lose sleep over it. However, she is a tough woman and through this story, she gets even tougher.
We had massive amounts of rain the past week in our city and up north. That Thursday night she contacts me that the water was going to rise dramatically from our nearby river. She didn’t seem too concerned at first as initial reports weren’t that bad, but there still a bit of uneasiness lingered in our minds.
You see, our area recently experienced a massive flood back in 2008. It was a national emergency and was a big deal across the media. It was a 100-year flood and something we had never seen before.
You would’ve never thought something like this would happen again right?
That Thursday she assured me that she was alright and to continue attending my conference. Things changed quickly that Friday morning while attending one of the morning speakers. I looked at my phone and saw several missed calls followed by a text message: “you need to come home now.”
I packed up my things and jetted back as soon as I could and gave her a call. Reports are coming in that this flood could match the flood from 2008 and that I need to hurry home and help her move everything from our lower level up to high ground. If I didn’t get home now I may not have a chance to get into our neighborhood.
So here I am, speeding home from Iowa City going as fast while avoiding state troopers.
This is the part of the story where my wife is a bad ass. Thursday night when she told me to stay at the conference and she’d hold down the fort, she spent the entire night clearing out one of our garages.
She spent the majority of Friday early afternoon continuing to move things on her own till I got there. When I arrived around 1pm, it was like a scene out of the movie. Driving over the highway you could see the river significantly higher and approaching the sides of the road.
When pulling into my neighborhood, it was pandemonium as all of our neighbors were rushing their belongings into u-hauls and hitting the road to safety. As I park and rush to start moving everything from our second garage to the deck, my wife tells me that fire department recommended evacuating as our neighborhood was surely going underwater. It was only a matter of time until the water crossed the road into our area.
To add to the stress, I was in a wedding that weekend and had a rehearsal dinner at 5:30pm for my best friend Kerston—causing me again to leave my wife alone. The worst part was her parents lived by us too and they got hit hard back in 2008. Once we got everything moved that we could, I hit the road while she went to help her parents out.
Luckily, the groom and his soon to be wife graciously allowed Emily, myself and my two cats to crash in their basement during their wedding weekend. Seriously, who does that?
At the end of the night we had a safe place to stay, but were now playing a waiting game and praying that our home, her parents home and the rest of the people dealing with the flood were safe.
The Waiting Game
Saturday morning arrived and we start hearing from the news and pictures on social media that our neighborhood had been swallowed by the nearby Cedar River. Just north of us her parents had been pumping water out of their basement all night.
We were getting screen shot images of boats in front of our house and live Facebook drone footage. It was some of the craziest footage I’ve ever seen.
In the end, we got about 3–4 feet of water in our first floor, but that’s nothing compared to what so many other people got. Some people’s entire homes were filled and cars were under water.
It’s a small feeling knowing that many more people will lose their homes and others will move. I could only imagine the stress of another cleanup process and not knowing if another big flood is around the corner.
Trying to Find the Good
Amidst the sadness, there is a silver lining to the story.
The community pulled together and all barriers created between politics, race and religion no longer existed. Thousands of people were sandbagging, collecting relief supplies and overall doing their best to protect the city.
The worst of times seems to bring out the best in people.
To summarize the story, we were able to tread through about a foot of water in order to get back and stay at our house Sunday night. We are currently waiting on the insurance companies to come and assess our damage.
Currently, we are all safe and the water is slowly subsiding from our neighborhood. I had an amazing, brief escape from the drama and celebrated a beautiful wedding during the chaos. We have food, tons of clean drinking water, electricity, etc.
The cleaning phase will suck and we’ve lost many material things. Yet in the end, if there was a moral to this story or a takeaway, it’s:
- always try to find the good in something
- never being afraid to share your story
After tons of photos and a late night of power washing and shop-vacing, I’m getting a chance to write this. Albeit it a day before it’s supposed to go out, it’s done and will be on time.
It’s not your typical expectations of what I produce but you can’t always share the ups without the downs. Life isn’t perfect and I’m human. I struggle on the daily with debt, loans, living paycheck to paycheck and dealing with unexpected tragedies like this.
I’m just a normal person trying to make my dreams come true outside a full-time job. Writing, speaking and drawing helps me share my thoughts and record this moment in my life.
So many people bottle up their emotions and let it eat them from the inside out. For me, creating and expressing my feelings is therapeutic and allows me to accept and move on.
I appreciate all the love and support people have given me and all I ask is that you continue to pray and have those in your thoughts that were far worse off than us.
I’ll be on my regular routine and content next week. Thanks for listening.