Iowa Braces for Floods

Officials shut down arts campus, and students and faculty work on sandbag barriers.

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Onlookers take pictures of a submerged car alone 1st Street, in Cambridge, Iowa, after the part of the town flooded. Runoff from heavy rain early Friday forced the evacuation of about a dozen homes in Cambridge, in central Iowa.

With the threat of heavy flooding looming, the University of Iowa has taken a proactive approach in its efforts to avoid epic flooding similar to the 1993 disaster that cost the country $15 billion in damages.

So far, the worst flooding in Iowa City is just north of campus, and school officials have deployed faculty and student volunteers to create sandbag and concrete barriers along the Iowa River in the northern part of campus. "It's truckload after truckload of sandbags," said the university groundskeeper. "Dump trucks, cement trucks, you name it. We're working quickly."

Officials hope to construct a 2,000-foot dike of sandbags and interstate construction barriers just west of the river; the east side is protected by a 700-foot-long barrier. The entire arts campus, which sits on the edge of the west bank barricade, has been shut down, and classes in those buildings have been relocated.

To make matters worse, UI officials are worried that university construction will make floodwater levels up to 1.5 feet higher than they otherwise would be. The work was supposed to be completed by June 2007 but ran into problems.

The school has set up a blog to keep the public updated. And, although a number of incoming thoroughfares have been closed, UI continues to hold freshman orientation—complete with scenic, sandbag-full campus tours.