Monday, June 23, 2008

Report from the Iowa Floods - Dee Morris

New Orleans; Minneapolis; Blacksburg, VA; Iowa City . . . A dread pattern I've been following in recent years as disaster strikes one after another of the places where beloved university colleagues live and work -- First that moment of disbelief (as when visiting Notre Dame I looked up at a television monitor to see someone I knew at Virginia Tech in the aftermath of the shootings there) -- then the rush for phones, email, esp -- any means by which we might locate people and assure ourselves that they have survived. I was again at one university watching something terrible happen to another university -- This time it was the University of Iowa I was watching from the safe vantage point of a student union TV at the University of Maine. -- It was only a couple of years ago that I had such a good time visiting and speaking at Iowa City for the first time -- In addition to the great discussions with friends, I got to attend a stunning concert by Funkadelic, whose performances had formed part of the subject matter of my talk.

What, I wondered, of all those good people in Iowa. I almost hate to email friends in such circumstances, adding yet one more burden of response at a time when they must be frantic and sleepless, but I had to know . . . So I posted a quick message to Adelaide Morris just to make sure she was OK -- Here is the report she took time to send back to me:

It has been, as you've seen, apocalyptic here. At the height of it, it looked as though we'd lose all our bridges plus the power plant, EPB, the Library, and the arts campus. It looks as though all has survived, however, except for the arts campus, which is a ruin.

They may need to tear down the museum and they will certainly have to muck out the music building, the art studios, the theater building, and Hancher auditorium, all of which were filled to the windows with a fine soup of farm chemicals and feed lot manure. Very bad stuff--the police who had to wade in the waters got chemical burns on their legs and we've all been warned to get shots and wear masks.

Despite heroic efforts, none of the sandbag levees held. It only ended when the water went down, in its own time, but slowly now the bridges are reopening and summer school has resumed.It didn't escape our notice that EPB was not sandbagged, but the good thing is that the water which filled the basement was seepage-- filtered--rather than sewage, so I'm guessing we'll be back in business for the fall.

A relief. And, best of all, no one was hurt, though the waters were filled with trees hurtling forward faster than speeding cars.

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