Tag Archives: Flood

Mercy Week & Mother Nature


Father Tony Adawu talking about Pope Francis and Mercy. My wife, a nursing faculty member and OB nurse, was impressed Francis clearly knows how to hold a baby.

Here we go again. Just at the end of Mercy Week 2016, as we celebrate Mount Mercy’s heritage as a Sisters of Mercy institution, we have a reminder that the Sisters of Mercy take an extra vow—a vow of service. So service is part of the ethos of MMU.

In 2008, when devastating floods destroyed neighborhoods, Mount Mercy became a staging area for Iowa National Guard troops called in to help with the disaster. But that flood took place in summer—we’re facing the Flood of 2016 in the midst of a semester.

The good news, knock on wood, is the crest is not expected to reach the 2008 level. But it will be bad, and it will do some damage to some culturally important parts of Cedar Rapids—Czech Village and New Bo, for example.

And one reason that the Flood of 2016 might not be as devastating as 2008 is whole areas wiped out by the earlier flood have left empty patches of land where once vibrant neighborhoods stood.

In eight years, lots of plans have been slowly made to protect Cedar Rapids from flooding, but little has been done. Here’s hoping Mother Nature shows us some mercy—may this be a “brush-back pitch” that gives us fair warning, rather than the gut punch that 2008 was. And may it spur government, especially the federal government which provides the most finding for flood protection and must approve plans, into action.

Anyway, Mercy Week continued on campus today, with several fine events. In a morning class, which had three sections combined for the presentation, Sister Jeanne Christensen from Kansas City spoke about human trafficking, and showed this video.

She noted that trafficking can impact anybody, and can involve enslaving another person through three strategies: Force, often physical abuse; fraud, making false promises; and coercion, or various kinds of threats, such as threatening to embarrass someone by revealing their secrets.

One theme of her presentation is that local law enforcement often treats the virtual slaves engaged in sex trade as criminals, when they need help and treatment. As the woman in the video said of her own experience: “Being arrested over and over again did nothing, absolutely nothing.”

Anyway, at least the woman in the video was able to escape from her pimp. Sister Jeanne brought home the reality that slavery is not really something we left behind in history, but rather is something that has become a modern, shadowy reality.


Sister Jeanne Christensen speaks to three 8 a.m. classes. By being there, she said, “We have all earned sainthood.”

The mood was lighter at lunch today when Father Tony Adawu spoke of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church’s Year of Mercy. He had us write down who we would want to show mercy to—and at the end noted few of us had included ourselves.

“It’s OK to be merciful with yourself,” he said. Well, that’s a relief, because I managed to accidentally erase a whole bunch of very fine images I shot of Mercy Week events today—I copied them to my computer without realizing I had files of the same name, and when the computer asked if I wanted to copy over the old files, I said “no.” I assumed I had accidentally copied the files twice and formatted my SD card before I checked.

Ouch. Mercy me.

Anyway, sadly many of the gone images were of the Peace March that took place at 11:30, but at least I posted two of those images before the fiasco. I lost some good ones—I really liked a few I shot at the end after the group reach the Peace Pole, but there’s not use crying over spilled pixels, especially when an impending flood helps make little tragedies seem appropriately tiny.


Freshman Kasey Kaimann, who wrote a op/ed reflection on today’s presentation for the MMU Times. And, Times reporters note–she was done with her story by 4 p.m. Just saying.

Back to Father Tony—to illustrate Mercy, he talked about a man in his home town in Ghana, Kwesi Essel Koomson, recognized girls in the town had little educational opportunities. He was a driving force in setting up a new girls’ school, and in coming up with a financial incentive so that local fishing families would send their daughters to school rather than off to work.

Sadly, Koomson grew sick and died a few years ago, but the school is continuing the grow, Father Tony noted.

Well, it’s good to know that parts of stories sometimes turn out well. I hope that is the case with the Flood of 2016—may it turn out to be less than we fear and puny compared to 2008. Inevitably, though, it will hurt some. May we find ways to show them mercy.

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What I Did During The June Flood

A torrent of water pours down the street in front of our house.

A torrent of water pours down the street in front of our house.

It will probably become the July flood. The creek behind our house is already an impressive river, and this will probably be the one year in five that it gets so high that it enters our back yard. I don’t know the figures yet, but we had an impressive downpour today, on top of saturated ground. I’m sure the water is still entering the area creeks and streams and rivers. More flooding is on the way, but thankfully the skies will be dry for a few days.

We had planned a grandchildren’s day today at the Children’s Museum of Iowa in the Coral Ridge Mall. After a stop at Steak N Shake for lunch, off we headed.

It’s about the best museum around for kids, bar none. In many ways, it beats both the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids science museums—it’s clean, stuff works and there is lots of variety for kids to do. We had a very pleasant visit for a couple of hours, and around mid afternoon were just deciding it was probably time to go home.

When an employee came on the intercom and said something about 70 mph winds, and how we should all probably gather in either the theater or the mall’s storm safe area.

"Dry" Creek. And this is not mid-creek, just the overflow area to the north of the creek.

“Dry” Creek. And this is not mid-creek, just the overflow area to the north of the creek.

My wife, three daughters, eight grandchildren and I, we were quite a crowd. Luckily, the stories and costumes in the theater were enough to amuse the children, although one granddaughter crawled into a large chair on stage and sacked out.

Well, if you have to hole up in the storm, the children’s museum is a good place to be. Anyway, several hours later, we took the kids to Panera Bread for bagels, and then decided it was OK to leave as the storm was slacking off. And, of course, the rain started to pour on us as we walked out to our three Kia minivans.

We drove home. The drive was not bad, as the big storm had passed, but when we got home, Cedar Rapids looked more than a little bedraggled. Some street signals were out, many big tree limbs were down. And at our house, there was no power. Our daughter, who got home around 3, informed us it had been out since then.

And, after we got home, a secondary storm rumbled in—with a very intense downpour. We got to witness an impressive flash flood, as water charged down Devonshire, even removing some pavement from the street. A big limb from the ash tree was by the street, but ended up halfway up the yard. Several inches of water washed into our garage and threatened to enter the house, but luckily did not.

It was breathtaking and awesome in the sense of filling one with awe.

What do you do on a rainy afternoon with no power? When we weren’t watching the flood, we turned on some battery candles and nightlights, and had a dance party with music from an iPad, then played with Barbies and had a candle-lit picnic supper of cold foods. Finally, around 8, the power flickered on, just in time for my oldest daughter to read a couple of books to her daughters before they were tucked into bed.

In the living room when it's dark and the power is out.

In the living room when it’s dark and the power is out.

What is next? I am sure the creek is still rising. I hope the river doesn’t come up again too far, but I’m sure it will come up again.

July starts tomorrow. In a normal year, June is wet and July is dryer, although no weather this year could be called “normal.” Anyway, let’s hope that July is at least not as wet as June. And no more 70 mph winds, please.


Geraniums were tipped by flood, and one pot washed out–the plants are gone for good. Or bad.


Sunset after the storm is pretty. Let’s hope the rain is done.

July 1 update: Posted a few photos on Facebook the next morning. Sadly, it looks like a teen in Cedar Rapids was swept away in the flash flood. Stay safe out there!


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The March Lion Is Hanging Around A Bit Long

Looking north at 8 a.m. this morning at C Avenue Bridge over Dry Creek. Foggy, cool morning, and a Dry Creek that runneth over.

Looking north at 8 a.m. this morning at C Avenue Bridge over Dry Creek. Foggy, cool morning, and a Dry Creek that runneth over.

March is supposed to come in like a lion, but we’re 1/3 of the way into that month, and anytime the winter lion feels like leaving would be OK.

Not that I hate snow, nor have we really had too much of it this winter. It’s just that I’m in the mood to see the crocus bulbs in my gardens and yard do their thing, and the calendar says “any day now.”

We may have 3 inches of snow tonight. If we do, It probably will be heavy, wet, unpleasant snow—but it also won’t be very persistent. I’m hoping to bike to work on Tuesday, and I might, since sunshine and temperatures above freezing are forecast.

This morning was a bit drab and grey in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with a cold fog relieved only by a chilly drizzle. Yesterday it rained pretty seriously, and Dry Creek, the usually tiny trickle of water that runs behind our fence, has swollen into a little river.

I’m not too worried about having to build an arc. Once the ground thaws, it will be able to soak up a lot of water because, under the frost, it’s pretty darn dry out there. And our lakes and larger rivers will be able to take in a lot of water—Dry Creek may be over bank full, but the raging waters of the mighty Cedar, were all that water eventually will go, aren’t too raging or mighty right now.

I received some new flower catalogs this week, and have some plants picked out. Will I get them? It’s hard to say, at this point, as this will be a fairly light gardening year, since we plan some summer travel.

But, it’s nice to think of flowers and spring and gardens, and we’ve just gone back to Daylight Savings Time, which means the not so snowy part of the year is underway.

March lamb? You hear? That’s your cue …

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The Sac & Fox Trail One Year Later

One of the perks of living in Cedar Rapids is its fairly nice park system. It’s not perfect—there is a “park” along Dry Creek in my neighborhood that had been a nice mowed meadow a couple of years ago that the city has apparently decided is too much of a hassle to mow—rendering it a large, impassible weed patch—but there are lots of nice parks.

Several years after we had moved to Cedar Rapids in 2001, we discovered the Sac and Fox trail, a 7.2-mile walking/biking trail. We used it several times during the summer when the kids still lived here, although our family usage has fallen off as we have become fewer in number in residence.

Still, once I discovered a more-or-less OK biking route (Cottage Grove hill is still a challenge) to the north end of the trail, I would visit it two or three times a summer. It’s a challenging bike ride, at least for me, which takes about 2 ½ to 3 hours. Doing the trail is a 14 ½ mile ride, and it’s about a 15-mile round trip from my house, so I’m cycling at about 10 miles per hour.

Last summer was an exception. Between the flood and Amanda getting married, the whole season passed without me riding the trail. So today, June 3, 2009, a beautiful sunny cool early summer day, perfect for a bit of a bike romp, I decided it was time to visit the trail again.

If I had thought to check the city’s web site, I would have ready this ominous notice printed in red type on the “trail” page, http://www.cedar-rapids.org/parks/walktrail.asp:
“Due to June 2008 flood damage, the Sac and Fox Trail is not safe for use along any part of its 7.2 mile length. The trail may not reopen before fall of 2009.”

I rode the street route to the trail—traffic was light at 9:30, and it was around 10:15 when I arrived at the Cottage Grove Parkway trail end.

Well. What a tragedy.

Right after starting on the trail, around the first bend when the trail goes under East Post Road, the trail was basically destroyed. It was an aggregate gully, not a trail. 20 yards into my ride and I had to “portage” my bike around a big pit.

I had not seen any “trail closed” sign.

I continued my ride. Beside the trail, in many places, a “mini trail” has sprung up, where people have gone around the washed out areas. I rode about half the trail, but didn’t enjoy it much—was too busy not planting my face in the turf.

And I rode over a lot of rocks and soft sand.

I was able to ride, for the most part, rather than walk, except when I encountered the bridges. The trail surface had been washed away from the first two bridges I encountered, so they were definitely pedestrian passages.

It took me about 20 minutes to go the first two miles. Incredibly slow, even for me—about my jogging speed, and I know I am a very slow jogger.

About 3 miles into the trail, I came to a place where a bridge used to be. The bridge itself had been overturned and pushed downstream—and was still there, upside-down.

I was all set to write a rant about this trail being in such poor shape a year after the flood, but I’ve lost my steam, a bit. For one thing, there is so much work to do in Cedar Rapids, and much as I loved this trail, I can see there are many other priorities. For another, when I checked the city’s web site, it clearly stated the trail would not be repaired until this fall.

Which means, at least, there probably are plans to repair it.

I spent some of my time on the trail praying for my father-in-law, George Schultz, who is being treated for a lymphoma. The trail, treacherous as it is, is still a good place for thought and prayer.

I hope it and he are both back in good condition by this fall.

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