Even though the river in Cedar Rapids is well above flood stage, flood planner Don Thomas likes what he sees. "I'm not worried," says Thomas. "I'm able to smile because a lot of things have gone well. We've been well-organized."
Not only well-organized, but dry too. The rapids of the Cedar River are now contained with new flood gates and levees. These odd-looking contraptions keep the sewers capped. The city is so organized this time it even provides pumps to homeowners who live on the river.
"It's unbelievable," says resident Bill Dougherty. "They're trying to save anybody and everybody they can." Thomas rates the city's effort almost perfect.
But dozens of neighboring communities aren't doing so well. One such towns is Olin, which has a population of 663. There, entire streets are under water. People say they've lost the three-day battle with the river. Town residents fought to save houses one by one, but couldn't keep the water out.
"I've lost my home," says Olin resident Jennifer Hansen. "I don t know what I'm going to do. We don't have flood insurance."
At Cavey's Cafe, old-timers were talking about the weeklong rampage of the Wopsipinicon River, known to locals as "Wopsy." "The water got higher than we expected," says David Cavey, who owns and runs the café, and is also the Olin's mayor. "We never thought it would get that high."
The water is higher here than it has been in 50 years. In Olin, sandbags were the only defense and the Wopsy has won the battle. While Cedar Rapids residents are cleaning up from the flood that never came, the people of Olin wish they were as lucky.
Ten Iowa counties hit hard by this week's storms were declared federal disaster areas Friday by Vice President Al Gore.
Gore, acting on behalf of President Clinton, says the counties have been designated as presidential disaster areas, opening the door for federal emergency assistance.
The list includes Harrison County, which suffered heavy damage from last Sunday's tornadoes that killed two people. The other nine counties are in flood-ravaged eastern Iowa. They are Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque Fayette, Jones and Linn counties.
State Lt. Gov. Sally Pederson and Iowa Emergency Management Agency Director Ellen Gordon visited Independence and Manchester, two of the towns hardest hit, on Friday. "For them, it's much worse than the Flood of 1993," Gordon said.