An overpowering stench of stagnant water cut through the peaceful afternoon as the few relatively lucky residents picked through their houses on Normandy Drive. Floodwaters still lapped against some houses down the street from those that appeared untouched, save for their soggy brown lawns.
Several homeowners were allowed to return to Normandy Drive on Thursday as officials began opening up areas previously under mandatory evacuations.
Before an evacuation order for an area can be lifted, officials must ensure that roadways leading into the area allow sufficient access by fire and police crews, according to an Iowa City release. Vulnerability to flash flooding - as well as risk due to live power or sewage - are also taken into account.
Iowa City and Iowa Department of Transportation officials have lifted closures on several major roadways in Iowa City, easing travel headaches for the area.
On Thursday, Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey withdrew evacuation orders for four homes on Normandy Drive - a street near the Iowa River that has arguably been one of the hardest hit areas in the 2008 flood.
Tim Strang, who lives at 516 Normandy Drive, spent Thursday cleaning up yard waste, drying rugs on his driveway, and clearing his garage. In stark contrast to some neighboring structures, his home suffered little more than a wet garage floor and some scattered moisture damage; no living space in his home was reached by water.
"We just have mold, mildew, and things," he said. "We'll have to do some wall repairs. Right now, we're just cleaning and bleaching things."
While Strang and others have been allowed to return to their homes, re-entry does not necessarily allow property owners to reoccupy flood-damaged buildings; Iowa City, Coralville, the UI, and Johnson County will continue to enforce a curfew between the hours of 8:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. within 100 yards of any area affected by flooding.
The curfew border will move as water levels in the Iowa River continue to drop, allowing additional evacuation orders to be withdrawn. The National Weather Service forecasts fewer than .25 inches of rain over the next five days.
Inspections must take place before anyone is allowed to inhabit structures affected by flooding.
"They'll have to inspect plumbing and electric," Strang said. "[We'll be able to reoccupy the home] when they're satisfied. Nobody's told us when that will be yet."
The home of Strang's neighbor directly across the street tells a very different story.
Water filled the basement and seeped through the floorboards of the first floor in Kristin Reynolds' Normandy Drive home. The damage is so bad that, rather than waiting for proper inspections and repairs, Reynolds has opted to pack up and move out.
Reynolds and a Hawkeye Moving crew spent the day salvaging the belongings they could and putting them on a truck. Reynolds said she isn't willing to spend an untold number of months waiting for the go-ahead to move back home.
"We can't wait around while the damage is assessed. We just need to get back into a routine," said Reynolds, who has been living with her mother in Iowa City since she evacuated the house. "There will be foundation concerns because of all the water pressure. Then there's mold and mildew."
Despite having lost a basement full of appliances, kids' toys, and storage items, the sandbagging efforts leading up to the flood reminded Reynolds that her biggest loss will be the Normandy Drive neighborhood.
"This is the greatest neighborhood in the world," she said. "It's been so amazing to see this community come together I'm so sad that I'll never be able to be pat of this neighborhood again."
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