June 13, 2008

The day June 13, 2008 has two meanings for this country.

Sen. Biden and Tim Russert on set of MTP.

For some, they just remember that’s the day Tim Russert collapsed inside an audio booth at NBC News. He was getting ready for that week’s Meet the Press program. His death marked the end of an era of journalism. He had a fair tenacity about his interviews and was always gracious with others.

His model of using the public record to ask his tough questions was one that all journalists need to remember and embrace. Russert would just simply go back to what his guest said and ask what happened between then and now. Why is their story different? What changed? What did you mean when you said that?

"Tom, it is simple. Florida, Florida, Florida." Tim Russert (Image from Time.com)

And who doesn’t remember “Florida, Florida, Florida?”

During the 2000 Presidential Election Night, he used a simple white board to explain what the election hung upon between Gov. George W. Bush and VP Al Gore. He was right as Florida was the key to the election of Bush.

I heard about the news of Russert’s death while driving back from Iowa’s biggest story in decades, the Great Flood of 2008.

Downtown Cedar Rapids, June 14, 2008 (Image from NYDailyNews.com)

John Torpy and I had headed to Cedar Rapids to see how bad the flooding really was. We were going to get some video of the parts of the city under water. Earlier that week we’d been in Mason City where flash flooding caused some problems for businesses along the creeks and the Winnebago River, including knocking out drinking water for days. John and Andrew Batt had been in Waterloo earlier in the week to see the conditions around the downtown.

But when we pulled onto I-380 to go north to Cedar Rapids we started to see water in places neither of us had seen it before. John worked at KGAN-TV for a while and I grew up just north of CR and had passed through town probably hundreds of times before. When we saw water on the south side of town, I quickly grabbed the second camera we had and started shooting out the window while still driving.

Traffic was already basically stopped on 380 as people were grabbing cell phone pics out their car at the First Avenue corner near the Linn County Jail. We stopped alongside the road and all we could see was water, covering May’s Island, home of City Hall and all through the downtown. The Iowa Journal looked at several of the flood stories not only in CR but the entire state from Charles City, Iowa City to Columbus Junction.

June 13 was not the high water mark, but that was the day a serious reality set in for everyone involved. Roads were closed, including 380 and I-80 for a short time, as the water was everywhere.

The story has been well covered by Iowa media, but somewhat forgotten by the national press. The disaster ranks as the 5th worst in our country’s history.

Cedar Rapids homes 2 years after the flood. (Image from IowaIndependent.com)

Neighborhoods that finally dried out are a shell of what they once were. Lynda Waddington of the Iowa Independent put together this look at Cedar Rapids 2 years after the flood. You’ll find a lot of mess remains behind.

I still to this day don’t believe everyone in Iowa knows how serious the flooding of Cedar Rapids was. It was the worst flooding in the City’s history.

Many in Central Iowa may remember 1993 without water, but the damage was more widespread in flooding along the Cedar River than anything we’ve dealt with before.

And hopefully don’t have to ever again.

But this morning’s rain makes me think about how we all have a part in the flood recovery. A lot of water ran through my yard, into the street, the gutter and into a creek that will eventually lead to problems for someone else. If we can all do our part to keep the water where it falls, we can all help prevent future floods.

We may see flooding, but not the extreme that we saw in 2008. That was one angle we talked about after the 2008 flood, what can be done, besides tearing out development in flood plains, to help prevent future floods?

These videos are a must watch.

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