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Iowa floods create hardship for community

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:47 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Beth Malicki is a news anchor at KCRG in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Dear Reader,

The rain has inconvenienced mid-Missourians; the story in other parts of the Midwest has been much worse. You might remember Beth Malicki, who for six years was a news co-anchor at KOMU/Channel 8. She’s in Cedar Rapids now. She sent this e-mail over the weekend, and agreed to share it with you:

I’m sending this e-mail to everyone I can think of because I simply can’t take or make calls or send individual e-mails…

As I’m sure you are well aware, Cedar Rapids is in an emergency. We have had flooding unlike anything in the history of Iowa. I have been broadcasting since Wednesday for at least 10 hours a day with nothing but flood information — no commercials, no programming, just video of washed away towns, emergency evacuations and severe weather adding to the misery. 1,300 city blocks are flooded; or 9.2 square miles. 3,900 homes are filled with water like you wouldn’t believe — some you can only see their roofs poking up from the swollen Cedar River. 2,500 Iowa National Guard soldiers are dispatched to the hundreds of flooded towns across central and eastern Iowa.

We are safe — our home is far from the floodwaters and has power and everything. The kids are OK — Brett is holding down the fort and is my rock. He could really use some help, but no one can get to us. I have to admit I haven’t seen much of my family in days, and the kids are scared and cry when I have to leave. Everyone has to conserve water (no showers, no doing laundry, no using dishwashers, little flushing) as there are only 3-4 days left before the city runs out. No one can get to us from the usual route from the south — the interstate (I-380) is closed for at least a week. Tomorrow is Father’s Day and I haven’t been able to do anything for Brett or anyone else.

It’s very overwhelming. The city leaders who talk on air look shell-shocked and their voices shake; the Linn County Sheriff cried next to me on the air tonight. Bruce (Aune) and I signed off a little bit ago after 11 hours of non-stop coverage for us (in addition to the morning crew, which we relieved). After we said goodbye we just sat at the desk and wept. The only thing I can think of to compare this to is Katrina … but on a much smaller scale, of course. And we have only had one death, although they’re expecting to find more bodies when the water retreats.

The station is in the flooded area but we ourselves are not flooded. We have no power, water, etc. We’re running on a generator and it’s hot as hell. After about seven hours of continuous coverage I start to have a hard time keeping my composure. The only thing that keeps me upright sometimes after watching video after video of ALL of eastern Iowa flooded and the shelters filled with children who are almost as scared as their parents is the hundreds of e-mails viewers have sent cheering us on. On a positive note — the stress has caused me and my co-anchor to lose five pounds.

Water nearly filled the Cedar Rapids library to the top. It flooded the hospital I had Bennett in and it had to evacuate all 174 patients Thursday night. The symphony school where Brooks has taken violin for three years is filled with water so high no one knows what it’s done to the interior. Churches, schools, day cares , not-for-profit agencies, the list goes on and on of what floodwaters have ruined. The water on the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids has crested and it’s falling. I just wish it would retreat faster. Many people won’t even get to see their homes for days.

For those of you familiar with the University of Iowa in Iowa City (about 25 miles south of Cedar Rapids) it is in danger from the record flooding of the Iowa River. On Tuesday that river is set to crest and already 900 people are flooded. It will get so much worse. Twelve buildings at the University of Iowa are flooded already. That area is going to get hit hard in the next few days — and all we can do is report the destruction day after day. The stress of what I’m experiencing is nothing compared to the thousands of people who have nothing now. It’s devastation that takes your breath away. And sometimes all I can do is cry in the porta-potty outside the station to get it out before heading back to the set.

A moment of levity: Yesterday we lost power from our generator, and while we switched it out, Bruce and I had to anchor from outside the station. We were broadcasting just feet from the floodwater — which was at this time a block from our station. Engineers operated the control room out of our live truck van. When we came on in our new, outdoor location, I said, “We had to leave the KCRG studios because it’s losing power while we switch out generators. Right now we’re operating, temporarily, out of a van… down by the river.”

You gotta laugh sometimes or we won’t make it.

Starting tomorrow at about 1 p.m. I’ll be back on the air. Hopefully it won’t be as intense as it’s been since Thursday and we won’t have to continue this wall-to-wall coverage. If we do go wall-to-wall (and I’m sure we will with the water crisis and Iowa City/Coralville flooding more each hour) they stream the video live on our Web site, www.kcrg.com.

I can’t take many calls but I would appreciate the prayers for the people in this state that are suffering so terribly.

Love always,

Beth


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