Un-Natural Disasters +5: Waverly - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Un-Natural Disasters +5: Waverly

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WAVERLY (KWWL) -

Downtown Waverly is vibrant and thriving. Businesses continue to pop up along Bremer Avenue.

For some folks, it's hard to imagine what the city looked like five years ago.

"There were a lot of times when people would come up and put their head on your shoulder and maybe shed a tear and say, 'You know, golly, why this?'" said Waverly Fire Chief Dennis Happel. "But then the next breath they were, 'I'm OK. My family's OK, and we're going to make it."

Happel said 38 firefighters worked during the flood of 2008.

The Waverly Fire Station had only been built for one year. It served as the hub for folks displaced by the flood.

"We were in the heart of the flood, so we figured this was the best place for people not to have to drive very far," said Happel.

Even when floodwaters drowned parts of the city, people came together.

"The volunteers that we had to come out and help pick up and just the outpouring of people to help this town out ... it was phenomenal," said Happel.

Shane Pothast, a senior water operator for the City of Waverly's Water Department, spent days trying to keep the Water Department from getting swallowed up in floodwaters while his own house was flooding in the basement.

"My home was flooded along with my workplace," said Pothast. "The community needed help with a number of homes that needed water shut off, and my family needed me. So it was just a tough situation at the time."

Pothast said the outpouring of support helped his family, his workplace, and the entire community.

"You saw a lot of neighbors helping neighbors," he said. "We had people stop at our home to offer help that we wouldn't expect, and we had a lot of friends show up, too."

Meanwhile, Happel helped organize clean-up efforts with area contractors.

"We didn't wait around for FEMA, and the contractors came in. We organized that. We got everything going and I think within about two weeks pretty much everything in town was cleaned up and out of here. The yards were being mowed again, and people were back to as normal a life as they could get to at that point," said Happel.

Meanwhile the City of Waverly has expanded parks and added gardens throughout the community.

Director of Leisure Services Tab Ray said more than 100 houses were destroyed and torn down in the five years since the flood.

He said 15 of the 101 lots have been absorbed into the park systems. Some of the lots have turned into community gardens where dozens of products are grown and donated to area food banks. Additionally, Ray said people can adopt an empty lot to plant trees and gardens of their own.

Ray said the Cedar River is a major resource and tourist attraction.

"We're looking at ways to enhance the use of the river since everybody thinks that's one of the big things about Waverly," he said.

"One of our goals is to continue to make sure the neighborhoods are still livable and get that character of the neighborhood back and keep it," said Ray.

An inflatable dam was installed since the flood of 2008 with hopes the city won't have to deal with a similar disaster again.

Ray also said people continue to brainstorm concepts that would change Dry Run Creek in hopes to reduce any future flood damage.

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