Drowning

There was a flood in 1993. A disastrous one that clouded the crops, conquered the banks of the river. Wave after wave of storms brought torrents of rain, and, in the end, nine states were declared Federal disaster areas.

I don't remember; I was just five, fresh out of preschool and eager to spend the summer in the only large body of water I knew--a 24" deep plastic watering hole in our backyard. I don't remember the concern, the worries of farmers and citizens alike. I can only tell you that I spent my summer wearing a neon-colored one-piece while screamingly recoiling from my brother, who pretended to Jaws. Baaaaaaaah dum. Baaaaaaah dum. Baaaaa dum. Baaa dum. Baa dum.



I was just five that year. I was unaware that every county in the state of Iowa was classified as a disaster area. This year, however, I can tell you about the flood. I can tell you how much of a wet, swampy, eternal disaster it is. I can tell you that the river is not to be trusted.





I can succinctly tell you about the farmers' anguish--how thousands upon thousands of acres are lost. The farmers are doubly defeated; rows of seeds have been drowned, and the crops that do remain have thus increased in value. I can tell you, briefly, that a worst-case-scenario evacuation for the city of Council Bluffs exists. There are four shifts total; four scheduled evacuations that will displace thousands of people. Their homes will be lost ... flooded and hidden beneath the ominous weight of murky water.

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I can tell you that Omaha has an evacuation plan, that levees have been breaking and overflowing and washing away. I can tell you that roads are flooded, underwater and impassable. I can tell you that there is no way to cross the Missouri River between southern Omaha and St. Joseph, Missouri. Roads have washed away, train tracks have eroded. The countryside is nothing short of a swamp, and small towns are lost. The nuclear power plant at Ft. Calhoun is surrounded by the Missouri River.

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I can show you how landmarks I visited and photographed are now immersed; they are submerged in a river ever growing in speed, width, depth. The water blankets the ground beneath my feet, drains dirt and grass and foundations into a black, sinking hole.


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I encounter all sorts of people in Indiana, but as soon as they learn I am from Iowa, they ask with morbid curiosity, "How are the flood waters?" "What is Omaha like? I heard it's pretty bad over there." I smirk. "Yep. It's pretty bad." I look at the ground, flash images of the Lewis & Clark Monument behind closed eyes. "It's just going to get worse," I say.

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I tell them that Mills County residents were given a mandatory evacuation.

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I tell them that Percival's levee broke, and, last I heard, that the town was expected to be 10 feet underwater.

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I tell them that the airport I flew from is now surrounded by water. Pumps constantly drain the property, and private and corporate jets alike are now stored in neighboring airports. Talks of diverting flights to Kansas City, Lincoln and Des Moines have been going on for weeks.



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I tell them about the flooded casinos, about the electronic billboards desperately claiming "WE'RE OPEN" despite the fact that parking lots are underwater.

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I tell them about sandbags, about the shortage of volunteers. I tell them about the ever-dwindling number of individuals who can no longer help bag and sack and shovel because they, too, have to protect their own households.

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I tell them the pedestrian bridge is closed.

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I tell them that interstate interchanges are unusable.



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It's a sweeping, saturated disaster. A flood whose threat grows worse with Montana snow melt, with each dam release. The water covers, buries. Buries what I see and turns it into an underwater playground whose equipment is marinas, paths, limbs, debris and front doors.



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As I said, the river is growing. It's growing faster, stronger, deeper; it can't be stopped. The horizon brings only more storms.

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If you are interested in learning more information about the flood that the Omaha/Council Bluffs metro region is experiencing, please visit these news providers:

KMTV (Channel 3)
WOWT (Channel 6)
KETV (Channel 7)
The Daily Nonpareil (Council Bluffs)
The Omaha World Herald (Omaha)

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