Cedar Rapids — Business owners in the New Bohemina district said volunteers are helping them make the best preparations for what could be the second worst flood in Cedar Rapids history.
The Cedar River is expected to crest Monday evening around 24 feet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Hundreds of volunteers have been sandbagging around NewBo City Market since Thursday night, with piles of sand behind the building and a sandbag wall already built around each door into the market. Local Hy-Vee stores donated boxes of doughnuts and water bottles to volunteers.
Chairs and tables are stacked and pushed to a corner of NewBo City Market. Shop owners are clearing out all merchandise, ingredients and cooking and display equipment.
Carlos Legaspi, owner of La Reyna, a Mexican-food stand inside the market, said he has to move out everything but the countertop and the range hood over his oven. Some of his employees were helping him box up ingredients and equipment Friday morning. Legaspi is taking the supplies to his restaurant in Vinton, but he knows the La Reyna Vinton restaurant still is in danger of flooding. As of noon Friday, the Cedar River in Vinton is expected to crest at 22 feet midday on Sunday.
“My focus now is to take out this,” Legaspi said of the NewBo shop. “Tomorrow, I don’t know. Then we wait. For how long, I don’t know. I’m in the risk even over there.”
Legaspi said that though there is a lot of uncertainty about how severe flooding may be, he said volunteers’ help has saved business owners.
Karen Sedlacek, co-owner of The Artisan’s Emporium in NewBo, agreed.
“Last night, I had 20 people come in and say, ‘Can I help you?’ Sedlacek said. “We want the whole of Cedar Rapids to know how much we appreciate them helping to save our businesses.”
Sedlacek and Cheryl Kardell, the Emporium’s other co-owner, said no matter how bad flooding gets, they want to return to the marketplace.
“We wouldn’t have NewBo without the last flood,” Kardell said. “We can’t stop the water, but we’ve learned maybe how to mitigate some of the damage. People have embraced NewBo, I think they’re just going to squeeze it harder. There’s so much investment down here.”
Will Monk, co-owner of the Pig and Porter restaurant, said if the river crests at the expected level, there could be a foot or more of water in his restaurant. He said he still wants to own a restaurant in the part of the city that experienced the most rebirth after the 2008 floods.
Dana Melone, a teacher at Kennedy High School and the wife of Pig and Porter’s co-owner Matt Melone, said she is communicating with Kennedy High teachers and coaches to coordinate volunteer efforts when students are let out of school at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
Melone said the Kennedy football team may be able to help move equipment from Pig and Porter to the second floor of the building. On Friday morning, students at Kennedy could sign up to volunteer in sandbagging efforts around the city.
Though the NewBo area may face the worst of the flooding, volunteers and business owners said the community plans to rally to rebuild.
“This is the baby for Cedar Rapids,” Legaspi said. “That is why everybody takes care of this place. People every week spend time outside, inside. There are many events here. The community needs that.”
Metro High students Bryan Lopez, Karmeron Olson and Alex Macinerney said they came down to sandbag early Friday morning after their teachers asked if they wanted to volunteer.
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Employees from T&K Roofing were also took off work to volunteer, saying they wanted to save the businesses that have provided them services in the last eight years. Steve Gomez,
“This whole town is built as one community,” said Kyle Smyth, TNK employee. “We watched if fall before and won’t let it happen again.”
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