The horrible F-word

A week ago I returned from Washington DC from an NIH grant review session. At NIH, the forbidden F–word, is of course “funded.”

However, as bad as the funding is right now, sometimes we scientists need to put things in perspective. A real F-word that is out there in many states in many areas of the US right now is: FLOODING

On my flight back from DC, despite having seen and heard the news for weeks and weeks, I was nonetheless shocked as the plane began to descend into the Omaha area. Flying low over Western Iowa, Missouri River looked like the sea. I could see roads submerged entirely underwater, telephone poles barely poking above the surface, barns and homes almost completely invisible, and of course miles and miles of farmland turned into swamps.

The flood, as seen from above

The flood, as seen from above-2

There were bridges sitting above the rising water, with no visible road, reminding us of the infamous Alaskan “bridge-to-nowhere”.

I did not try to take photos, but here is a link to an Omaha news station showing aerial video of Nebraska, Iowa, and, farther north upstream, Gavin’s Point Dam close to the border of the 3 states.

Today, we ventured from our high point well west of the river to the downtown region where the Missouri River separates eastern Nebraska from Western Iowa, and crossed the pedestrian bridge to the Iowa side. Although nothing like some of the aerial photos, the power of the river and its rushing currents was something to behold.

Benches underwater at the Omaha promenade-Missouri River

A parking lot under water, downtown Omaha

On the pedestrian bridge- where is the Iowa side river bank?

where is the promenade?

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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5 Responses to The horrible F-word

  1. cromercrox says:

    The power of water should never be underestimated. Not for nothing do salty dogs advise that one should never turn one’s back on the sea. A couple of winters ago we had a high tide which, combined with a storm surge, lifted whole beach huts from the promenade (these beach huts are wooden sheds, but fairly big), tore them from their mountings (heavy chains dug into concrete) and washed them out to sea, as if they had never been.

  2. Steve Caplan says:

    Spending my childhood in a landlocked area in Canada, I had little experience with the sea. In fact, my first real experience at sea was when I took an undergraduate marine biology/chemistry course in Eilat, at the Red Sea. The culmination of this 10 day intensive course was a day out on the research boat. I was fine until we anchored in the middle of the bay, and then I was sent into a dark room to learn how the navigation system worked. Suffice it to say that nobody contributed as much to the Red Sea as I did during those 10 wretched hours that I hugged the rail.

    A few years later, I put my fears behind me and spent 10 days on a boat in the Galapagos Islands. Fortunately, during the days we paddled ashore to the various islands, but the nights on boat were tough.

    Much later, as a post-doc who had just joined a cell biology lab, I got seasick looking for green fluorescent proteins under the microscope. I thought that this cell biology wasn’t for me, and longed to go back to signal transduction. But not anymore: “I was blind and now I can see…”

    • The Boss gets seasick on the Cross Channel Ferry to France, but curiously it isn’t too bad when she lies down in a darkened room – much worse being in a cabin with no windows but trying to move around and do stuff. As a consequence we now try and take the overnight boats whenever possible.

      She also used to get motion sickness back when she was a junior anaesthetist/ anesthesiologist and had to ride in the back of the ambulance for patient transfers between hospitals (no windows!). The best solution then was prochlorperazine.

      Luckily neither I nor the kids seem to have the same problem. I crossed the Atlantic three times on passenger boats as a child in the late 60s (due to my dad’s dislike of flying) so perhaps I got used to boat motion early.

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