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Iowa river has swamped 400 city blocks

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Cedar Rapids hospital evacuates; Des Moines also urges evacuations

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - This city had hoped the worst would be over by Friday, but instead the Cedar River keeps rising and has now swamped more than 400 blocks and forced thousands to flee. In Des Moines, meanwhile, officials issued a voluntary evacuation order as the Des Moine River neared the tops of levees.Cedar Rapids officials earlier said 100 blocks were underwater, but that number rose to at least 438 city blocks in downtown by midday Friday. There was more flooding outside of downtown, but authorities don't know what widespread it is.

Officials earlier evacuated patients from a Cedar Rapids hospital as the rising waters from the Cedar River confounded the city's best efforts to secure the downtown area. Much of the Midwest remained under threat of more severe weather, with yet another storm front moving through Kansas, Missouri and Wisconsin

In Cedar Falls, officials early Friday had hoped the Cedar River would crest Friday at about 31.8 feet, but NBC's Kevin Tibbles later reported from the city that officials now fear it won't crest until the weekend, with a predicted crest of 33 feet. The water has been rising about two inches an hour, Tibbles added.

The river was at 30.9 feet early Friday. In a 1993 flood, considered the worst in recent history, it crested at 19.27 feet.

"We are seeing a historic hydrological event taking place with unprecedented river levels occurring," said Brian Pierce, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Davenport. "We're in uncharted territory — this is an event beyond what anybody could even imagine."

At the Mercy Medical Center in downtown Cedar Rapids, all 176 patients were evacuated to other hospitals in the region. The evacuation started late Thursday night and continued Friday morning in the city of 124,000 residents.

"Some are frail and so it's a very delicate process with them," said Karen Vander Sanden, a hospital spokeswoman.

Water was seeping into the hospital's lower levels, where the emergency generator is located, said Dustin Hinrichs of the Linn County emergency operations center. "They proactively and preventatively started evacuation basically guessing on the fact they were going to lose power," he said.

I-80 cut off for miles

Flooding also closed Interstate 80 from east of Iowa City to Davenport. The flooded Cedar River crosses the interstate in Cedar County, about 20 miles east of Iowa City.

By late Thursday, Cedar Rapids officials estimated that 100 blocks were under water, where several days of preparation could not hold back the rain-swollen river. Rescuers had to use boats to reach many stranded residents, and people could be seen dragging suitcases up closed highway exit ramps to escape the water.

"We're just kind of at God's mercy right now, so hopefully people that never prayed before this, it might be a good time to start," Linn County Sheriff Don Zeller said late Thursday. "We're going to need a lot of prayers and people are going to need a lot of patience and understanding."

In Wisconsin, amphibious vehicles that carry tourists on the Wisconsin River were used to evacuate homes and businesses in Baraboo, north of Madison. Hundreds of people lost power in Avoca, west of Madison, and were "strongly encouraged" to evacuate because of flooding of the Wisconsin River and some streams, said Chief Deputy Jon Pepper of the Iowa County Sheriff's Department.

well, when humans divert rivers, change the climate and live in flood zones wtf do you expect?


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Where would they go now? That sucks. I heard news yesterday that some victims from hurricane Katrina, losing their homes from floods, still need help but are ignored by the govt.


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The last time there was a flood here in 2006 it was prevented... "diverted"... Well except for everyone else & the highway. Our floodgates worked & every one else got flooded... All the way to Binghamton & maybe beyond.


"Cool. I always knew Atheists would someday save The World."

- Fantomex

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