Flooded with Memories

On Friday, June 13, 2008, the Iowa River bursts its banks, washing across the University of Iowa campus. After record winter snowfalls and abundant spring rains, water flowed over Coralville Lake’s emergency spillway and crested at a whopping 717 feet. Downstream, things proved just as bleak. In Iowa City, the river crested at 31.5 feet—about two feet lower than predicted, but still far more than the city could contain.

Hancher Auditorium took on water up to its stage, the Iowa Memorial Union’s basement and first floor flooded, and the Art Building, Art Building West, and Voxman Music Building all suffered extensive damage. Residents lost their homes and businesses. Most of the city’s main arteries closed. When the waters finally receded, the community began to assess the damage and make plans for restoration.

Five years later, the flood memories still linger. Iowa City just recently dodged another major flood, and UI administrators continue to regularly monitor the river’s height. Today, the university is better prepared for another water disaster with extra safety measures in place and new facilities being built at least two feet above the 500-year floodplain. The UI, Iowa City, and surrounding areas all continue to move forward.

The 2008 flood delivered some of the region’s most trying times in recent memory. It also gave a glimpse into the strong, resolute spirit that defines eastern Iowa—and that’s a memory worth keeping.

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