Friday, June 13, 2008

Worse Before Better

I've buzzed my hair.

Or rather, CT has buzzed my hair. It feels great, in all senses of the phrase. It is soft on my hand. The weather here is hot and very wet. My hair is cool and dry. It makes me feel stronger. Plus, hey, free haircut! All those shiny strands that catch the light just so? Those are all grays, btw. With many more TK.

So, we moved what we could out of my mom's house and my stepdad's house yesterday by pontoon. It was very terrible to see, but also beautiful. The river raged beside us, feet away. A storm blew up. The water rose so fast. We had to leave with what we could shove quickly into garbage bags. We boated out along the treetops.

I just got back from the grocery store, which was a madhouse. I bought tuna and saltines and water. The water was difficult to navigate. What is the difference between stocking and hoarding? I mean this in a practical sense. How much water should one person buy when it is difficult to know--when the power goes out, when the water treatment plant loses its last pump--how long we will be without clean water and electricity? Am I incorrect in buying now, before these things have happened (but which, the media tells us, are likely)? How much water does one person need for a day? For a week? A month? What if my family members--who are understandably a bit slow right now, a bit shell-shocked already--don't buy enough water or food for themselves?

Well, now that I am back at the office and in front of the friendly, helping internet, I see that the Red Cross recommends storing one gallon of water per person per day. But the question remains: how many days are we looking at here?

I bought what I thought was reasonable.

I'm full up on gas, have a store of cash, waders, a poncho. As more bridges, roads and interstates close every hour, Iowa City feels more and more like a remote island. I hesitate to use the word escape, but how else to say what it feels like here? It feels like very soon escape will not be an option. But that is okay. My family is here. We are all on high ground now. I wouldn't want to escape if I could. I'm very glad to be here right now and not watching TV, helpless, in a studio apartment in New Jersey.

CT and I are going out for a ridiculous, expensive, wonderful meal tonight at my favorite restaurant. I am going to get really drunk on red wine. I am going to sleep in tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

As Good As It Gets

This is a picture of my mom's house yesterday. The water has not yet gone over the dam spillway. Right now it is literally inches from the top. When it goes over, very soon now, Mom's house will likely flood another 4-8 feet. My stepdad's house is down the road. We couldn't get to his place because the currents were too strong to safely navigate in a canoe. This is as good as it gets. It will be a 500 year flood.

Right now, I'm basically on-call for my family. The waters came so fast, we couldn't get all the irreplaceables out of my mom's house before it flooded. But at this level, it's still not quite high enough on the road to be able use her pontoon boat to move things. So we have to wait until it really floods in earnest--until today, most likely--to be able to salvage whatever is left of her stuff. But it's a Catch-22, because to get to her stuff, the waters have to be high, and by then, there may not be much stuff left to salvage.

My sister and her husband live with my mom and are now minor local celebrities. They were the last two to leave so the news stations have been stopping by and interviewing them. They have been moving everything out, including their cats, by canoe.

My mom has rented storage space. She's now trying to find a house or pair of apartments to rent for everyone for the rest of the summer. She hasn't had much luck. Because Iowa City is a college town, almost all leases in Iowa City end on July 31 and begin on August 1. They will likely need housing into September. In addition, the competition is high. There are a lot of homes on the Iowa River and a lot of people newly homeless. More likely, the four of them (my sister, her husband, my mom and my stepdad) will move into an extended-stay hotel for the rest of the summer. The cats will have to be boarded until fall.

FEMA, in true FEMA form, has not yet declared Iowa City a disaster area. This essentially means that there is no widespread and organized relief for displaced people. FEMA has said they will not claim a state of emergency until the water is over the spillway.

My mom and stepdad are lucky: they are fully insured and financially stable. They have family members in the area and places to stay. Some people on the river don't. Unlike a lot of waterfront property, the Iowa River is not necessarily a high-income place to live, especially outside of town where my family lives. Some of their neighbors don't have insurance and are literal inches away from losing everything. Some don't have family on higher, drier ground with whom they can stay. A lot of people are out of luck. The Red Cross is helping out here. If you'd like to donate money or your services, please go to their website or call a local chapter:

Cedar Rapids Area: (319) 393-3500
Dubuque Area: (563) 583-6451

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

For The Motherfucking Love of All That is Left of This Country