A scene from downtown Cedar Rapids.
Jeff Roberson/AP
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

SAN DIEGO — With 400 city blocks underwater in Cedar Rapids, and Iowa Gov. Chet Culver declaring 83 of the state's 99 counties disaster areas, and nine rivers at or above historic flood levels, Cedar Rapids native Zach Johnson has found himself thinking about sandbags as much as sand traps.

"I've been online watching the news every waking moment that I haven't been playing golf," Johnson said after shooting a 5-over 76 in the first round of the 108th U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. "My folks are here, but their place back home is in an area that's probably going to be okay. They live near the river but they're well up in the woods so they should be alright.

"My dad's office is five blocks from the river," Johnson continued. "So we don't know about that. That bridge, I think, is still okay — it might be going over now — but there's a railroad bridge a block south from there and they put four or five empty railroad cars on it and they washed off. The bridge is gone."

The rising Cedar River forced the evacuation of a downtown hospital Friday after residents of more than 3,000 homes fled for higher ground. Amtrak's California Zephyr line was suspended across Iowa.

The evacuation started late Thursday night and continued Friday morning in the city of 124,000 residents.

Johnson has been scouring local news websites like kcrg.com, and gazetteonline.com, and watching some of the devastation on YouTube.

Asked about Elmcrest Country Club, the course where he spent so much of his formative years, Johnson said it's still there, and preparing for its big member-guest tournament, the Tin Cup.

"The golf course drains pretty well," he said, "but in the grand scheme of things it's not all that important. This is bad. There's a museum — we have a pretty good size Czech population — and there's a museum and the water was up to the roof Thursday morning. That's bad. It's not that far from my dad's office and a lot of other major industries and companies and whatnot. Who knows what's going to happen."

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