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Spending 'crest day' with Mayor Corbett

During flood, Corbett serves as national face of Cedar Rapids flood

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CEDAR RAPIDS -Mayor Ron Corbett has been among the most visible officials during the city’s flooding, and one of his biggest roles has been communicating with the local and national media.

The Gazette shadowed him for several hours Tuesday both to stay on top of issues and to get a better sense of the decision-making process.

Corbett said his day started at 4:30 a.m. when he headed to inspect how the temporary flood protection system held.

“Today is our crest day,” he said. “All we can do now is wait for results.”

6 a.m.: Corbett participates in a Facebook live interview with a Gazette reporter. “The flood protection system has held overnight with no serious problems,” he said.

8:15 a.m.: Corbett travels to the New Bohemia District where water gushed up from the sewer along the dry side of Third Street SE. Crews replunged the sewer and began pumping the water back to the river.

8:58 a.m.: He stops at Casey’s General Store on First Avenue E for a large cup of coffee. “This is my second cup today,” he said.

9:18 a.m.: Corbett sits in the studio at WMT AM-600 for an interview on the Simon Conway show. Conway asked why an unarmed Iowa National Guard was deployed here. Corbett said the service members were intended as volunteers. “We didn’t want to create a police state,” he said.

Corbett said his biggest frustrations is that he’s seen children and others in flood zones playing on the sand barriers and motorists not heeding a request to yield the inside lanes on Interstate 380 for emergency vehicles.

9:32 a.m.: During a commercial break, Corbett moves to his car to continue the interview while traveling to a daily news briefing at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. At this point, callers question him and one praises the response by Corbett and other leaders.

9:38 a.m.: A caller questions alignment of the temporary flood protection system. Corbett speaks about the “wet side” of a flood barrier in NewBo that left business such as Tornado’s Grub and Pub underwater. The barriers had to be built on sidewalks or hard surfaces like road roads, he said.

10:45 a.m.: After city staff leaders provide update the city, Corbett speaks last. He compares crest day to an Election Day. You prepare and plan, and when the day comes, you may be restless but try to find peace in the steps you’ve taken so far.

11:50 a.m.: He has a live phone interview with CNN’s Headline News.

12:20 p.m.: Taking a roundabout route due to road closures, Corbett arrives back in NewBo. He finds Jon Jelinek on 12 Avenue SE. He’s a business owner whose properties include Parlor City. He has ridden out the flood in NewBo. His properties have taken on about 18 inches of water in the basement, and he takes Corbett into one to show.

12:25 p.m.: Betty Criddle and her grandson, Teddy Rozeboom, 5, offer Corbett a Hy-Vee doughnut. They’ve been walking around some of the flood zones to offer treats to police and city workers.

12:30 p.m.: Corbett runs into Dave Franzman from KCRG-TV9, who’s reporting in NewBo. He notes the city is on the verge of avoiding a disaster.

12:45 p.m.: Steve Shriver, a NewBo business owner and head of the NewBo Group, has been doing street reporting via Facebook live. Shriver and a colleague want to know if the city has a plan to collect sandbags. Corbett said that’s being worked out.

12:50 p.m.: Corbett gets a message for another interview request, this one for CBS Radio.

1:34 p.m.: Sean Ulmer, executive director of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, and Corbett bump into each other on Fifth Street SE. Looking out at Greene Square and the public library, Corbett reflects on how much better off the library is being relocated out of the flood zone.

4 p.m.: Corbett presides over a routine City Council meeting, which has been relocated to Kirkwood Community College.

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

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