The first sign that there might be trouble came Thursday afternoon, when reports started circulating that the Iowa Department of Transportation planned on closing I-80 at the Atalissa and Tipton exits Friday night at 7:00 pm. At that point I realized I would probably need to be moving out Friday afternoon instead of Saturday morning. Still, I could leave home as late as 5:00 in the afternoon and still clear those exits by 7:00 pm. My mother suggested that I take the boys right then and go down and stay with an aunt and uncle on the east side of the closure. I briefly considered it, but decided to wait.
I woke up Friday morning to discover that the DOT had closed I-80 earlier than expected. Indeed, they jumped the closure from Friday evening to late Thursday. I started looking at maps, trying to figure out how to go east. It seemed pretty simple. Head up to Cedar Rapids, then take Highway 30 east to Tipton, then back south to I-80. I needed to make arrangements to board the dogs, and started making calls. By the time I found a place to board them, not only was Highway 30 closed, but pretty much every bridge and road north of I-80 that went east was closed. On top of that, I-380 in Cedar Rapids was one-lane only, and there was talk that both I-380 and Highway 965 were about to be closed between I-80 and Cedar Rapids. My only option to the north was heading west, then heading north to Highway 20, then east to Dubuque, then south to I-80, then on to Chicago. Not a very attractive path.
So I started looking south. Highway 92 was already closed going east, but that still left Highway 6 and Highway 22. I got the boys dressed, then set off for Victor where I was boarding the dogs. By the time I got home, less than an hour later, Highway 6 was closed. Highway 22 was still open, though. If that closed, my only option would be driving down to Mt. Pleasant, taking Highway 34 across the river at Burlington and over to Galesburg, and then taking I-70 up to I-80.
We set off about 2:00. Before we leave I double-check to make sure Highway 22 is still open. It is. By the time we reach Highway 22, about 40 minutes later, it’s closed. We set off for Mt. Pleasant, hoping Highway 34 is still open. It is, and the rest of the trip is uneventful, except of course for hitting I-55 into Chicago right about 6:00 p.m., just when traffic starts to go back into the city. It took about an hour to travel the 30-some miles between I-80 and the Harlem exit, and then another 30 minutes or so to get to the hotel.
The next day was busy – turn in the first rental car, get a new rental car, escort Drew to his flight, go to the BMW dealership and take care of things with the old car, then drive back home following the same route. We dropped the rental off at Budget, got a lift home from a friend (thanks Brian!), then settled in and watched flood coverage.
So that was my week. It cost me a car, it cost me over a $1,000 out of pocket (rental car, hotel, gas, diagnosis of car problems, towing fee), and I still consider myself fortunate compared to the many, many people in the area who lost a lot more. A friend, someone I’ve worked with for close to a decade, owns a house in one of the worst-affected areas of Iowa City. I spent an afternoon helping him clean-up - tearing out carpet, tearing down drywall, hauling out trash. It was horrible to see the damage caused by the flood up close. And he was one of the lucky ones. He was about four rows of houses away from the river, and though he is looking at tens of thousands of dollars worth of damages, he could conceivably rebuild if he needs to do so. There are many others in far worse shape. I got to leave it behind at the end of the day, but those affected can never leave it behind. It’s always with them.