Sunday, June 15, 2008

Iowa Floods of 2008

I haven't posted here in a while -- I have been incredibly busy with the Iowa Floods. Where I live and work are both high and dry and did not experience any flooding or related problems. I have heard some incredible stories and seen amazing pictures of the floods and this will definitely be one to talk about for years to come. Here are some links to news or pictures about the flood:

From a data center perspective, I wanted to cover two areas. The first is how flooding affects site selection. In the white paper I wrote last year about data center site selection, I included a map of Presidential Disaster Declarations. In this map, every single FEMA region lists flood as a type of natural disaster that can occur. It is a pretty amazing force of nature, and hard to avoid most anywhere you go in the U.S. Even if your state or region of the country doesn't flood much, there are plenty of other natural disasters to go around. The interesting correlation that I have made in site selection factors is that between natural disasters and quality of life. There were a lot of stories on the news and in the newspaper of people helping each other out, volunteering to sandbag the downtown and save businesses, and just an overall impressive level of community involvement. Avoiding natural disasters is one thing, locating where the people pull together in the event of a natural disaster is something else all together.

The other item on my mind throughout the floods is disaster recovery (DR) plans and business continuity. I can't mention company specifics for obvious reasons, but I have seen a lot of companies executing their disaster recovery plans as a result of the floods and have learned a lot from it. I have witnessed disaster plans carried out almost exactly as planned, but have also seen companies that did not have much planning in place at all (especially as it relates to their IT equipment). Again, the impressive part of both good and bad DR plan execution is the level of involvement and willingness to do what ever it takes from the people involved.

I 'think' the worst of the flooding is over - and I don't want this to turn into a Flood update blog, but I thought I would share my lessons learned from what has turned out to be a pretty amazing past week.


Craig Askings said...

When the company I'm working for looks for new property to develop into a datacentre in our home city. The first thing we do is pull up our geo-spatial database and load up the 1974 flood layer (Highest flood ever in Brisbane, Australia). If it is below that flood level, we don't even bother looking any further into that property.

joshcramer said...

I am running the website We actually have a very small data center in our office in Coralville, IA. Our office was located 1 foot above the 500 year flood mark. We've been thinking we were safe from all this all along, but yesterday, there was some concern. It seems like things are holding steady now and there is no imminent risk for us.

We've helped one of our upstream providers sand bag a POP on South Gilbert street and they also moved a Positron Sonnet Node out of that POP to another one in Downtown Iowa City to avoid service interruption.

I'm not sure if there was anything that could have been done in downtown Cedar Rapids. Qwest lost a major POP in downtown CR and it has caused widespread outages for most of their customers in Eastern Iowa. Some are still down, while others are up and down.

James Urquhart said...


Thanks for this.

I lived in Cedar Rapids growing up, and I just saw the Gazette photos for the first time. Damn. My Mom was the minister of the UU Church at 3rd Ave and 6th Street SE, and it looks like it just escaped. That building is at least 125 years old. It is the oldest continuously used church building in Iowa.

What really struck me though, are the pictures of Mays Island. When I was a kid, we would walk over the second or third avenue bridges, stopping to look over the edge. I used to get vertigo from the height. Now those bridges are completely submerged.

To the folks in Cedar Rapids and the rest of Iowa, my thoughts are with you (as they are for the unfortunate folks in China dealing with their own devistating floods). Just remember that this is a 500 year event, and that you will have a great story to tell your grand children. The pain of all of this will pass.

Then life will return to normal, and the play of the Hawkeyes will be your biggest headache once again.

Anonymous said...

Down area people are facing lot of problems due to floods.I am also interested to cover two areas.first one is how flooding affects site selection.and second one is Business plans and Disaster recovery plans.Overall poor people are facing much more problem due to floods.



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