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Floodwater may be gone, but the problems are not over

July 20, 2008
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer

We're five weeks past the flooding of Friday the 13th in Cedar Rapids and that area. The water may gone, but the problems remain.

Especially in the small town of Palo, 10 miles northwest of Cedar Rapids on the Cedar River. It's a town of slightly fewer than 1,000 people. All but six homes in town were damaged by the flood - 99.9 percent of the town damaged.

That's an impossible figure to wrap your mind around.

Paula Gunter is mayor pro tem of Palo. She and her husband, Kirk, and two sons, 15-year-old Parker and 4-year-old Jesse, expect to move back into their tri-level home this weekend. By the time the Cedar River crested at 31.9 feet above flood level, the basement of their home was full of water and the water was 2 1/2 feet deep on the main level of the house.

Lucky for them, their bedrooms and bathroom were on the top level of the tri-level house.

Kirk is the son of former Eagle Grove residents Cliff Gunter, of Antioch, Tenn., and Judy Kroon Leberman of Neosho, Mo. To help raise money for the people of Palo, Leberman made a quilt, which is being raffled off at the United Methodist Church in Eagle Grove through her mother, Gladys Kroon.

If you just want to help out, you can buy raffle tickets for the quilt, but money also can be sent to the City of Palo, in care of the Palo Savings Bank, 401 Rockridge Drive, Atkins, IA 52206. The bank had to move to Atkins to continue doing business.

"Cleanup is going very well," Paula Gunter said Wednesday night when I called her. "We've had the debris removed. We've picked it up two or three times around town. The state DOT assisted with debris removal. About 90 percent of the homes have been cleaned out and mucked out and gotten all the bad drywall out. We're getting to the rebuilding stage now."

Palo kids go to school in Cedar Rapids, so there was no school to flood, but the basement of the Palo United Methodist Church had 6 1/2 feet of water in it.

"Besides the Cedar River, two creeks run through town, and both drop into the river," Gunter said. Ironically, one of them is Dry Creek, the other Bear Creek.

It's just hard to imagine unless you see the devastation first-hand what can happen with water running through town.

Much further upstream on the Cedar River, Waverly saw plenty of flooding, too. The basement of St. Paul's Lutheran Church and School, across a city park and a city street from the river, filled with water, which crawled up about 3 feet on the first floor after filling the basement. Preschool, kindergarten and first-grade rooms were destroyed, along with the art room, music room and the principal's office.

My sister, Suzan, and her husband, John Mitchell, live in Torrance, Calif., but their daughter, Pam, married an Iowa farmer, Wayne Carolus, and they live just north of Waverly. They go to church at St. Paul's, and the kids go to school there. I'm not sure where they'll end up going if they can't refurbish the school before classes start in August.

Not to mention the supplies and stuff like room decorations and posters, built up through the years by the teachers, that also were lost.

They have insurance, but anyone whose ever dealt with insurance coverage knows it won't go as far to fixing things as the water went to messing things up.

If you've any money left to help out, donations are being accepted at St. Paul's, too. Checks may be made out to St. Paul's Lutheran School and sent to St. Paul's Lutheran Church and School, 112 Second Ave. N.W., Waverly, IA 50677-2617.

And if you want, you can say you're donating in the name of the Carolus children - John, Elizabeth and Mary. I don't know if they get credit, but it would be nice.

Just the fact that you would take the time to help is nice. Thank you.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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