116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Last week marked the 13th anniversary of the Iowa flood of 2008. During this disaster, I was a journalist at KCRG-TV 9 in Cedar Rapids, and I’ll never forget what it was like to cover the flood and its devastating aftermath.
Our community prepared as best we could, but there was only so much we could do as the Cedar River continued to rise and overtake buildings and homes throughout Cedar Rapids — until it eventually crested at 31.12 feet, the highest level in our history.
As the water was rising and families were evacuating, I reported public safety updates and heard from Iowans about what they were going through. People felt hopeless as their homes, businesses, lives, and livelihoods were completely swallowed by the Cedar River.
I will always remember visiting a shelter at Viola Gibson Elementary School and interviewing an elderly woman forced to evacuate and shelter at the school. She told me she had no idea what condition her home was in. I’ll never forget the fear in her eyes as she told me her story. I asked for her address so that I could check on her house. When I checked, her home, like thousands of others across Eastern Iowa, was underwater.
After the 2008 flood, we banded together to recover. We rebuilt and came back stronger than before.
But in August of 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the derecho ravaged Eastern Iowa. The derecho is one of the most costly storm in our nation’s history — it damaged the majority of homes and businesses in Cedar Rapids, destroyed crops and rural communities, and resulted in four people losing their lives. We are still in the midst of an uphill recovery process.
What we know after both disasters is that our community — our families, farmers, and businesses — are resilient. And while we can’t control if or when the next disaster will hit, we can learn from our experiences.
That’s why I am working proactively to ensure we are ready for potential disasters. Iowans should feel prepared and protected.
A critical aspect of the recovery process is mitigation. As we continue to repair previous damage, we must rebuild in a way that makes our community more resilient. Since the flood of 2008, Cedar Rapids has invested in flood-resilient infrastructure, including removable flood walls, levees, pump stations, and detention basins. Investing in mitigation is cost-effective. It’s the right long-term investment in our homes, our lives and our economy — and I’m looking at every federal option to bring flood mitigation resources to our district.
Additionally, I am working to ensure that federal flood maps are accurately updated. These maps show the flood risk associated with a property and determine if an owner needs flood insurance. But in our district, the majority of flood maps — 64 percent — are out of date. This means people are flying blind when they buy a new home, and localities can’t make informed decisions about development.
In a meeting with FEMA officials this week, I reiterated that Iowans need to understand their flood risk and should be able to afford insurance if required. I will continue to work directly with FEMA and hold the agency accountable so that Iowans have the certainty they deserve. Our community came out stronger on the other side of the flood of 2008, the derecho, and other disasters in between. And even though we can’t predict the next derecho or flood, I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure we are prepared if another disaster strikes.
U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson represents Iowa’s 1st District.