Commitment to service

The flooding that overwhelmed Ames on August 10 caused widespread damage and disruption, with few citizens left untouched. While there were countless episodes of neighbors helping one another or citizens making small sacrifices for the greater good, a few examples of going above and beyond were found among College of Engineering faculty.

On August 11, Gary Mirka, chair of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, awoke to a phone call from the City of Ames warning of an evacuation because of the heavy rains that caused flooding the night before. “I figured there would be some flooding but was surprised by the magnitude of the disaster,” Mirka recalled. (See video of the flooding.)

Later that morning, Mirka and his wife, Jami, volunteered to help bag sand on the corner of 16th Street and South Dayton to block the path of the rising water. As flooding continued throughout the week, the Mirkas helped distribute bottled water, and with the help of their daughter, Blair, removed water damaged drywall and insulation from local businesses.

Doug Gemmill, associate professor of industrial engineering, received a similar early morning call from the city. “The city was expecting record flood levels, and needed volunteers to sandbag,” Gemmill said.

Gemmill went to city hall shortly after 4:00 a.m., and joined another response team of volunteers. He worked on the corner of South Duff and South 3rd Street filling sand bags and loading trucks.

Tim Ellis, associate professor of civil, construction, and environmental engineering (CCEE), also volunteered his efforts during the flood. A CCEE undergraduate student from Lanzhou, China, was stranded in a flooded rental unit. To make the situation worse, the student had a torn ligament in his knee and was scheduled for surgery.

Ellis and his wife, Debbie, knew the student needed to be evacuated from the unit, and they were able to notify officials. Authorities rescued the student by boat, and the Ellises escorted the student to the hospital later that day.

The flood brought out the best in many Ames residents, and engineers were certainly among them. As Mirka said, “It was nice to be able to help out others in the community who were suffering through some pretty trying circumstances. Doing this kind of community service work is very rewarding.”