The warnings in the days before could not have prepared the community for what would eventually become known as the Flood of 2008. Flood warnings were issued a week before, but because there was no way of knowing the true impact the flood would bring, many people just waited to see how to proceed next.
When it was apparent that the scale of the flooding would be monumental, an announcement was made asking for volunteers to help fill sandbags, but the efforts were futile for the most part, because the flood waters were already inundating the downtown area.
The water slowly made its way from the banks of the Cedar River up 8th Avenue, threatening Mercy Hospital, 10 blocks away. The sandbaggers worked relentlessly through the night, doing their best to keep the water from damaging the foundation. The efforts proved to be victorious, with the hospital only receiving minimal water damage.
According to The Gazette, the Cedar River crested at 31.12 feet, 19 feet above flood stage, June 13, 2008. Previous flood records for the Cedar River show that the river reached 20 feet in 1929 and 1951, and 19.27 feet in 1993.
One Cedar Rapids resident remembers how wet 1993 was because it rained nearly every day the month of July that year.
“The downtown fireworks kept getting postponed. On the third day, they just decided to cancel them all together.”
The Flood of 2008 impacted 5,390 houses, dislocated more than 18,000 residents, and damaged 310 City facilities. At least 1,088 homes and 93 commercial buildings have been demolished.
City offices, including Animal Control, were relocated to Kirkwood Community College. The city of Hiawatha helped out by inviting the Cedar Rapids City Council to hold their meetings at Hiawatha City Hall.
The flood changed the lives of many people, and though it took time to adjust, the Cedar Rapids community didn't let that change their "neighborly" disposition.
“We’re Iowans. That’s what we do,” said one resident, as she helped clean her neighbor’s house after the flood. “We work together to get it done.”
For days after the waters receded, buildings had to be inspected for structural damage before owners were allowed to return and clean up. The Time Check neighborhood and Czech Village were hardest hit, where several hundred homes had to be demolished. Though some decided to rebuild, many people have moved away from the area.
The main downtown buildings that were damaged in the flood and have since been restored or rebuilt. And through the damage and rubble, a new neighborhood has emerged; New Bohemia. With the Cedar River Bike Trail running through the city and the addition of the NewBo City Market, NewBo has become a popular attraction for the community, as well as tourists.
Though rebuilding efforts took a few years to initiate, the city of Cedar Rapids continues to build and make the city before than it's ever been before.
The main buildings that have been restored or rebuilt include:
- Central Fire Station
- Police Station
- Various City Buildings
- Main Library
- Paramount Theater
- Veteran’s Memorial/City Hall
- Ground Transportation Center
- Quaker Oats
- Theatre Cedar Rapids
New buildings have also been constructed since 2008, including a new Federal Building on 8th Avenue SE, NewBo City Market, the Geonetric Building on 12th Avenue SE, and NewBo Station on 3rd Street SE. The Depot, located on 12th Avenue SE, will soon be completed.
The Flood of 2008 affected the entire Cedar Rapids, either directly or indirectly, and it was amazing there were no fatalities from the flood itself. Unfortunately, most of the houses along the river had to be demolished and a park is being considered with the green space
According to cedarrapids.org, the Iowa Flood Mitigation Board voted unanimously to award the City of Cedar Rapids $264 million over 20 years to help build a flood protection system on both sides of the Cedar River.
“As of this writing, a Congressional conference committee continues to meet to consider the Army Corps. of Engineers' plan for flood protection in Cedar Rapids, and other plans in cities across the country.”