Raging Iowa River Floods UI Campus

A sea of humanity responded to help prepare for the 500-year flood

Photographs taken on site at the University of Iowa Campus - June 6 - 15, 2008


The Iowa Memorial Union on Sunday, June 15, 2008

For eight days the campus and local communities turned out by the thousands in a heroic effort to help save our campus.

The "story behind the story" is the heartrending outpouring of humanity and Hawkeye Spirit.


Friday, June 13, 2008 - Hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members finish the sandbagging efforts at the Iowa Memorial Union sandbagging camp.   Severe storms continued to plague the efforts throughout the week.

Thursday, June 12, 2008: Volunteers become vigilant in their sandbagging efforts and saving Iowa's hallowed ground.

Thursday, June 12, 2008 at Hydro Annex on Madison Street.


Monday, June 8, 2008 at Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories.

Volunteers worked well into the night for several days to place sandbags.


The Iowa National Guard was called in several days in advance to help prepare for the anticipated flooding.

Members of the Iowa National Guard place Hesco barriers around the UI Power Plant.  These modules were folded out and filled with rock.

Hundreds of students showed up to sandbag the UI Main Library and the adjacent water treatment plant.

Sandbag lines formed at several locations on campus.  The sandbag walls were built as high as seven feet tall, and several hundred feet long.

Students began showing up early on Thursday, ready to work.  Main Library in background.  A nice break in the weather helped us make good time on the production of sandbags.  By the end of the day the sandbaggers were stretched much farther down Madison Street.

Friday, June 13, 2008 - Sandbag wall at Lindquist Center, College of Education.  The effect of recent floods in Iowa showed that predicting flood stages and elevations was a moving target.   Frequent rains in the river basins proved a challenge.  Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on the Cedar River flooded much greater than anyone guessed, just a few days prior to the Iowa River cresting at Iowa City.  The University's Flood Emergency Response Plan made planning for the event much smoother than it would have been otherwise, however, an event of this magnitude had never been experienced at Iowa City, and thus was "off the charts."

Saturday June 14, 2008: Loads of sand were dumped continuously down Madison Street as far as the eye can see.  Volunteers worked from early morning through late evening, with some staying into the night.

Danforth Chapel peeks over a well-fortified sandbag wall as the water begins to lap at its base.

Facilities staff place sandbags around Jersey barriers on Arts Campus, on west side of the Iowa River.                          

The Iowa National Guard was a key contributor to barrier construction and sandbagging, and was a constant presence for several days.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008: A sandbag production camp was set up at the north end of Madison Street, just north of the Iowa Advanced Technology Labs, at the old water plant.  Sandbag lines were created to fill around Jersey barriers at IATL.


Student volunteers at Lindquist Center on Madison Street


Thursday, June 12, 2008: Iowa Memorial Union

Volunteers chipped in to shovel, fill, tie bags, throw sandbags, and move pallets.

Sunday, June 8, 2008:  Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories, home of Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER).

Saturday, June 7, 2008:  Staff volunteers and family begin making sandbags on the Arts Campus, Clapp Recital Hall.

Saturday, June 7, 2008:  The sand piles quickly disappear as staff and families produce thousands of sandbags.

Saturday June 7, 2008:  Sandbag production camp at Clapp Recital Hall and Hancher Auditorium parking lot.

Saturday, June 7, 2008:  Director of Iowa Memorial Union (left) and President of UI Student Government (right.)

Student and staff volunteers from Hydraulics Research, College of Engineering made 55 pallets of sandbags in 3 hours.

Saturday, June 14, 2008:  River spills over sandbag walls on Arts Campus.  Theater Building in background.

Sunday, June 15, 2008:   Arts Campus under water, appearing as a lake.  Thanks to the hard work of the volunteer sandbaggers, the effort was not in vain.   Had it not been for the high sandbagged walls and barriers along the river and around buildings, the raging waters would have aggressively scoured and undermined the campus landscape and facilities, causing much more damage. 


The regional and national media shows up on campus to report on the flooding.

The new Art Building West, School of Art and Art History sets under several feet of water.


These were the locations of the Sandbag Production Camps:

Mayflower Residence Hall
Hancher Parking Lot / Clapp Recital Hall
Iowa Memorial Union Circle
Hawkeye Court Apartments
Madison Street at Lindquist Center and Communication Center
North Madison at Old Water Plant
University Water Treatment Plant / EPB Parking Lot
Prentiss Street at University Services Building
Hydraulics Annex on South Madison

The flood response brought out our students, leaders, athletes and greater Iowa City community

  On Monday, June 9, 2008, after a full day of making sandbags, another sudden rain came up, but did not dampen the efforts of the volunteers.  The large piles of sand had disappeared, and the last sandbags were being loaded on a truck in front of the Iowa House at the Memorial Union.   A rainbow inspired the completion of the day's work.   Danforth Chapel at right.



On Sunday, June 15, the Iowa River crested after several weeks of building up to its peak. 
Over nine days, thousands of volunteers worked untiringly to save their campus.
They came from all around, including out-of-state.  They were legion, ages 5 - 80.
For those of you who gave your heart, muscle and soul......, shovels, gloves,
and to the many contractors who donated time, staff and heavy equipment,
the local vendors who delivered food and drinks around the clock,
Thank You!

We will recover.  We will rebuild.  It's all about that Hawkeye Spirit.

Monday, June 9, 2009:  Taken from the front of Danforth Chapel at Hubbard Park on the University of Iowa campus.  By July 4, 2008, a flood-weary community is a few weeks into recovery, and ready to celebrate Independence Day, below.



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