Cedar Valley-Rompot neighbors prepare for flooding

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CEDAR RAPIDS — For 60-some years, Ron Coppess has made the Cedar Valley-Rompot neighborhood home.

The floods of 2008 claimed his home, but still Coppess wanted to come back. He built a new home on a higher lot and has lived there ever since.

“I grew up here,” he said. “It was just a good place to leave. Peaceful. Quiet.”

Now, floodwaters are threatening the tiny, southeast Cedar Rapids neighborhood again. But like other areas throughout the city, citizens flocked to the neighborhood on Sunday to fill sandbags and try to help the residents there withstand the rising Cedar River. About 50 people were on hand at the Cedar Valley Park Sunday afternoon, filling sandbags, loading them into trucks and delivering them to residents.

“It’s great to see so many people down here,” said Nancy Sauerman, who lives nearby on Memorial Drive.

Sauerman said the additional notice about the pending flood and time to prepare has left her feeling more optimistic about the city’s chances of dealing with the flood.

“It’s going to be bad,” she said. “But it’s not going to be the disaster it was in ‘08.”

One of the recipients of the outpouring of support was Brad Zach, who has lived down on 24th Avenue all of his life. Zach said his home had two and a half feet of water on the first floor after the 2008 flood.

“It was awful,” he recalled. “We had to rebuild the whole house.”

But, like Coppess, not coming back never really seemed like an option. Not only has Zach lived in the neighborhood all of his life, he said his grandparents were born and raised in Rompot, as well.

“It’s home,” he said.

Charles Sykora said lives in Cedar Valley-Rompot, but his focus on Sunday was helping his fellow neighbors. All of his most expensive belongings had already been loaded into a moving truck in case he needs to evacuate, so Sykora spent Sunday afternoon filling sandbags for other residents.

“We don’t need any bags, we’re just helping people,” he said.

Sykora said he loves the feel of his neighborhood, which he said is “stashed away” from the rest of the community.

“It’s not country, but it’s not city,” he said.

The sandbagging operation dispersed around 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Like many of the houses in the neighborhood, Zach has a tiny wall of sandbags around the perimeter of his home. As the river continues to rise, he’ll wait and hope that it’s enough.

“We should luck out,” he said, face damp with sweat. “But, prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

For all of The Gazette's Flood 2016 coverage, please visit our flood coverage center.

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