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Residents return as floodwaters recede

Evacuation zone dissolves at 7 a.m. Saturday

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Standing between crammed shelves of canned goods and a row of industrial-sized water jugs in his basement, self-proclaimed “doomsday prepper” Craig Sharp said he’s ready for almost anything.

“The only thing I’m not prepared for — which nobody can be — is Mother Nature,” Sharp, 58, said,

The Cedar River’s historically high crest of 22 feet Tuesday sent Sharp and many of his neighbors packing as the city urged some 6,000 residents and business to evacuate areas at risk of flooding.

Sharp moved furniture, stereo equipment and his collection of concert memorabilia out of his home near A Avenue NW and Fifth Street NW over the weekend and went to stay with his brother. Once the crest passed, he starting hauling it back.

The evacuation zone — which included areas of Time Check, Czech Village, downtown, Cedar Valley-Rompot and the New Bohemia district — was reopened to residents and businesses at noon Friday. It opens to the public at 7 a.m. Saturday.

Many properties, including Sharp’s, did not sustain any damage.

In Time Check, Tammi Janey threw open the back door of a U-Haul truck Friday afternoon as friends and colleagues carried furniture and boxes inside her home on Ellis Boulevard near L Avenue NW.

The walls and berms built around her neighborhood, she said, saved her house.

“People want to complain that they didn’t do enough, but what they did was crucial,” Janey, 52, said of the city’s response to projected flooding. “Without that levee, we for sure would have had flooding.”

Instead, she spent the afternoon carrying dry sandbags out of her basement and pulling dry belongings out of the loft in her garage.

“My fear now is when this happens again that people aren’t going to take it as seriously as they are now,” she said.

Up the road, across the street from Ellis Boulevard’s sand barrier, Allen Fritz, 40, said he appreciated the wall he thinks would have protected his house from a more than 30-foot crest.

“We’re proud of our city for overreacting,” Fritz said.

Downriver, on Blakely Boulevard in Rompot, Ruth Walsh, too, praised the city’s response.

City officials and volunteers packed sandbags and brought her and her neighbors sack lunches as the flood approached, which she said wasn’t the reaction when the river spilled into the neighborhood in 2008.

“We weren’t forgotten this year,” Walsh, 64, said as her granddaughters played on an almost-emptied trailer in her front yard.

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

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