COMMENTS: From Rock Island to Keokuk

The floods in Iowa, which would have dominated the news last week were it not for the untimely death of NBC's Tim Russert, returned to the headlines as flood waters worked their way south into the Mississippi River. From Rock Island to Iowa City to Keokuk rivers swelled, leaving 40,000 flooded out of their homes. NBC and CBS, with Iowan Harry Smith serving as substitute anchor, both led with the receding waters in Cedar Rapids. ABC chose the river towns downstream awaiting the surge on the Iowa River and Cedar River. The crest is predicted to be passing through St Louis by week's end. So this may be the first flood Story of the Day in a weeklong series.

ABC's Barbara Pinto showed us how "toppled bridges rearranged the landscape and crippled transportation." She strolled through the University of Iowa campus, touring some sixteen underwater institutions. CBS' Hari Sreenivasan joked that the Iowa River walking trail "is now the Iowa River." He stood in front of raging sparkling blue water highlighted with whitecaps in Oakville Iowa: "Those rapids behind me are soybean and cornfields" below a breached levee.

All three networks had a reporter in Cedar Rapids, where police and National Guard had barricaded flooded areas, even after water had receded. CBS' Cynthia Bowers offered a show and tell: "Just a few days ago the water here would have been well over my head." ABC's Mike von Fremd (embargoed link) repeated the explanation for the precaution, even as fury mounted at police checkpoints: "The water left such a staggering amount of toxic and has weakened so many structures that officials say it is too dangerous for anyone to return home." On NBC, Kerry Sanders was more vivid. At the historic branch of the Wells Fargo Bank, "the mud on the floor and counters is as thick as pudding."


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