CEDAR RAPIDS — Many workers will return to downtown Cedar Rapids and both sides of the Cedar River as the city reopens and returns to business en masse for the first time in 11 days, even as signs of the flood are still all around.
Street sweepers have passed over many sidewalks and streets, but a coating of sand persists. The temporary flood wall no longer blocks street and sidewalk crossings, but the remaining barriers are hard to miss along the river. And while sandbags are not piled in doorways, don’t be surprised to find mounds awaiting collection on curbs.
“You’ll be able to get around, but just be patient for the cleanup crews to do their jobs and give yourself plenty of time,” said Donna Herring, owner of Metamorphosis Pilates Center, 102 Third Ave. SW.
Sunday was a quiet day in the city core as business owners and residents scrambled to put the pieces back together. Almost all had evacuated last week when the Cedar was rising to its second highest crest in history — nearly 22 feet on Tuesday — before slowly beginning its descent.
The evacuation zones and curfews in place last week have been listed. And while some businesses reopened late last week, many others did not.
Herring, the Pilates center owner, spent part of her day Sunday reassembling equipment, including four stretching reformers in her studio. She is preparing to reopen for the first time since the flood this morning, so she and the seven contractors can get back to work.
“People want to know how to help,” she said. “The biggest thing they can do is patronize businesses that have been out of work for a week. We lost a quarter of a month of business.”
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Mark Miltner, owner of Sled Shed, 225 Third Ave. SW, spent the weekend moving some 2,000 sandbags to a massive heap on Third Street SW. He put all of his merchandise in storage for fear of the floodwater, and on Sunday he and his staff were restaging the sales floor with yard equipment and snowblowers.
Many Cedar Rapidians who work at businesses that closed last week expected to go without pay, and others took unplanned vacation time last week.
Miltner said he will absorb the loss and pay normal wages for his five full-time and three part-time employees. The Sled Shed reopens for the first time since the flood at 8 a.m.
“Hopefully, everything will be back to normal,” Miltner said.
‘people have come out’
Bryan Bredman, co-owner of Pub 217, 217 Third St. SE, said he didn’t lose any of his 20 to 25 employees after being shut down for a week. Some of those employees are part-time but all remain with him and were happy to get back to work on Friday.
“People have really come out after we reopened,” Bredman said.
Bredman said the pub was fortunate to not lose its freezer food products, which were stored at another location, and the food that couldn’t keep was donated to residents in public housing.
Losses from the devastating 2008 flood were fresh, prompting many residents to not take chances this time around.
Ryan Differding, 31, loaded his dishwasher, refrigerator, a deep freezer from his basement and other appliances in his K Avenue SW home into a trailer for safekeeping last week. He used the opportunity with an empty house to do some deep cleaning of his wood floors and walls before spending Sunday hauling everything back into place.
“Today is the day to put stuff back,” he said.
working through it
Many residents in evacuation zones had no choice but to work through the flooding episode, creating a stressful week managing work responsibilities, racing to protect their homes and dealing with the weight of uncertainty.
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Jodie Dutton, 55, of 14th Avenue SW, used vacation time to get ready, and she will be back to work this morning.
“I am just glad I had it to use,” Dutton said. “My house still is a mess, but I’ll slowly be putting things back together.”
James Vandivier, 25, was working on his home on First Avenue SW on Sunday and already thinking about the busy workweek that begins at 7 a.m. today. The FedEx driver was unable to complete many of his delivery routes last week and will be playing catch-up with 100-plus stops today.
His neighbor Steve Troupe, 46, is a driver for Office Express, on Second Avenue SW, which was in the flood evacuation zone. Operations were relocated, and Troupe worked throughout the week.
On the home front, sandbags are still lined along his foundation. In his basement, four feet of sandbags remain around his basement drain and two feet around his furnace and water heater. That’s about 40 bags, he said, and he plans to move them aside but keep them.
“I’m saving the sandbags, just in case,” he said.
A dozen or more residents approached by The Gazette on Sunday said they did not have any damage to their homes. At least two home remodelers, CS Home Remodeling and Dahl Custom Homes, said they had not received any flood-related calls for service.
Reporters Michaela Ramm and Trish Mehaffey contributed to this report.