University of Iowa students, staff remember Flood of 2008 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

University of Iowa students, staff remember Flood of 2008

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) - The University of Iowa is considered by many to be the lifeblood of Iowa City. It sustained hundreds of millions of dollars in damage last June. Students, volunteers and the National Guard worked around the clock putting up sandbag walls, but the water couldn't be stopped. The Iowa Memorial Union, Art Building East complex, and Hancher Auditorium were all under water once the Iowa River reached its crest.

University students, faculty and staff we spoke with agree that the flood caused major hardships, but they say it will forever change the university's history, and shape its future.

Senior Juston Rominger has seen the full range of Iowa weather.

"I got here after the tornado, and then there was that whole year that went by and we got the flood, too."

He'll always remember last June's devastation, and the unstoppable rising waters.

"It was all mostly scrambling to get stuff out of the way."

Since then, his art classes have moved off-campus to a former Menards building a couple miles away. A longer drive, he says, but there's a silver lining to it all: he has a bit more space to work with than before.

It's that kind of optimism and resilience that continues to impress University of Iowa President Sally Mason.

"People really pulled together, and they continue to do so," she told us.

The waters receded, leaving a three-quarter billion dollar mess to clean up. Campus art and music buildings, including the famous Hancher-Voxmann-Clapp complex, were left in ruin. The nation's economy crumbled soon after, making matters worse.

"I have a $740 million problem over here from the flood, and I have a $34 million problem over here from the budget," she said, recalling what she would tell people when they asked her about budgetary problems.

But through legislative efforts, federal dollars, and state bonding money, Mason says the reward for persevering is becoming clear, which is, "a chance to really imagine what the arts and music will be like for the University of Iowa for the 21st century," a prospect she calls "truly exciting."

Hancher Auditorium's Executive Director, Chuck Swanson, shares her eagerness to rebuild and improve those facilities.

"There are areas that really need to be made bigger," said Swanson. "There are areas we need to change, and so we are all excited to bring Hancher to the 21st century."

Rominger may never experience classes in those new facilities, but he'll always consider the flood a blessing in disguise.

"It's something really bad that happened, but it's also a good reason for people to come together and get something done."

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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