Czech Village prepares for impending flood

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After experiencing total devastation during the 2008 Flood, Czech Village business owners said not again — this time, they’ll be prepared.

Hundreds of volunteers swarmed to the southwest side neighborhood Friday to help businesses brace for the impending 25.3 foot crest of the Cedar River expected for Monday morning.

Volunteers formed assembly lines to carry equipment from basements and ground floors to second levels, filled and piled sandbags around doors and windows and directed traffic away from the bustling 16th Avenue SW.

“I remember what happened last time,” said volunteer Chad Stelken, of Cedar Rapids. “I don’t want to see people having to deal with it all over again.”

“It’s cool to see people in the community come out to help save something we just got done fixing,” said Royce Rios, a volunteer with Carpenters Local 308. “The last thing we want to do is see a natural disaster take it away again. We’re proud and want to protect it.”

At Lion Bridge Brewing Company, 59 16th Ave. S.W., kegs of beer filled the parking lot, waiting to be loaded onto a semi-trailer truck and taken away from the river. An assembly line pulled brewing equipment from the basement and volunteers piled grain onto pallets.

“When we opened, we knew this was an eventuality,” Lion Bridge owner Quinton McClain said.

Jennifer Stuart, owner of the Create Exchange, moved 3,000 square feet of craft supplies into an apartment above her shop. She’s been at the 98 16th Ave. S.W. location for just over a year, and similar to McClain, she said she knew there was potential for another flood, but she never second-guessed her shop’s location.

“I love this neighborhood,” she said. “It’s just a really unique part of Cedar Rapids. ... If we lose some stuff, we’re not going to stress about it. We can only do what we can do.”

Museums such as the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and the African American Museum of Iowa, however, are taking every precaution not to lose their precious artifacts.

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 1400 Inspiration Place SW, said flood protection measures put in place after the 2008 Flood protect their artifacts and library collection from any immediate danger, however they will be closed beginning Sunday. The Andy Warhol exhibit will not reopen.

At the African American Museum of Iowa, precious artifacts have been moved well above the 2008 flood line and sandbags have been placed around the doors. The museum, 55 12th Ave. SE, is closed until further notice.

Tom Moore, executive director of the African American Museum of Iowa, said facing a flood like this again is “surreal, to say the least.”

“It’s disheartening,” he said. “In less than 10 years, here we are again. We need to evaluate what our options might be, but I can’t even begin to think about that now.”

Preparations have felt all too familiar for Pam Lewis, owner of Czech Village Antiques, 82 16th Ave. SW. The two-story shop had a basement and ground floor space filled with antiques that were destroyed in the 2008 flood.

Unlike 2008, Lewis feels better prepared.

Antique sellers who use the shop to sell their collections were buzzing around the store Friday, clearing out booths. In 2008, collections were raised off the floor, resulting in a significant loss of treasured pieces.

This time, Lewis hopes she’ll only have to deal with the after affects, which can be “almost as traumatic as the flood itself,” she said.

“I would like to hope everything will be dry, and I can come back on Wednesday,” said Mia Suntken, owner of the Copper Alligator, 65 16th Ave. SW. “But I don’t know that that’s realistic.”

“Last time, it took six months to get up and running,” Lewis said. “But we’ll bounce back.”

“The 2008 Flood was just a practice run,” said Jim Henderson, whose wife, Jan, sells antiques at the Czech Village Antiques.

“This was supposed to be a 500-year flood,” Jan Henderson added. “We thought we’d be safe.”

“The last 500 years have just flown by,” Lewis joked. “Now we just need the city to do what it promised to do eight years ago and build a flood wall.”

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

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