CEDAR RAPIDS — Blue lights dot the streets in the Time Check neighborhood on Cedar Rapids’s northwest side. The porch lights are a symbol of those who came back and rebuilt after the 2008 flood — an event that was hitting very close to home on Friday.
Homeowners and businesses were packing up their belongings, getting ready to evacuate before the Cedar River’s projected crest of 25 feet on Monday.
“It’s surreal,” said Al Pierson, owner of Pierson’s Flower Shop and Greenhouses, 1800 Ellis Blvd. NW. “There have been a lot of different emotions — fear, anger, depression. Anger that we don’t have flood protection yet. People fought it, they said it’d never happen again.”
Pierson had three trailers, a semi-truck and several vans sitting outside his shop Friday morning. Volunteers — friends, family, union members and students from Jefferson High School — were packing up merchandise and moving plants.
He plans to move items to his Blairs Ferry location, keep those in the trailers and semi-parked in a parking lot, and relocate his servers and systems to his home. He started putting the plan together on Thursday, he said, when he first got word on next week’s flooding.
“But really, it’s been in the back of my head since ’08,” he said. “We expected a foot of water — we got eight.”
Across the street at Nancy Waybill’s house, she had friends and even some strangers helping pack up her belongings.
The 80-year-old, who lives right along the river, said in 2008, the water rose over her cabinets, destroying almost everything. She chose to rebuild the house rather than sell her property to the city last time, she said. But if next week’s flood causes too much damage, she likely won’t rebuild a second time.
“Not again,” she said. “Not again.”
Trailers, U-Hauls and cars lined the driveways of homes throughout Time Check as residents piled their belongings into bags and bins, having friends and family help move furniture. City workers, meanwhile, were setting up HESCO barriers — collapsible wire mesh barriers — along Ellis Boulevard.
John Eige, who lives on M Avenue NW, was packing items and moving them onto his camper. Friends were arriving later in the day to help the 71-year-old. In 2008, he said, water reached the middle of the street sign outside his house. His wife died two months before the flood and he then had to rebuild after losing everything.
“I was kind of in shock,” he said, explaining how hard it was to throw things away. “It’s your life, your time, your money.”
Amy Vega learned hard lessons after 2008, she said. She moved the items out of her basement onto the first floor of her home along Ellis Boulevard. But that did little, she said, when the water came — a wall collapsed and she lost just about everything.
“I was here in 2008 — I’m not doing that again,” she said. “We’re moving everything. It’s inconvenient, that’s for sure. I’m missing work, kids are missing school.”
But she said she’d rather take these necessary precautions — last time she was out of her home for more than six months.
“I didn’t even have a towel, a cup or a spoon,” she said.
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