Flooded by a historic deluge of “epic surge”

For the last six months, The Gazette has done an admirable job covering the 500-year flood that covered downtown Cedar Rapids in June and the city’s recovery since. Local stories by local writers about local people and local challenges. This week, the organization looked back at the changes the flood wrought, and put all of its flood stories in one place.

But one of the challenges of covering the same story for six months is not feeling redundant about using the word “flood” over and over.

In the first three grafs of today’s A1 centerpiece under the hed and deck “Will it happen again? Experts: State, global conditions point to more flooding in future” (the online-friendly hed is Likelihood of another flood rising, experts say“) the flood is called:

  • the great flood of 2008
  • the 31.12-foot-tall, 1.6-mile-wide tsunami that swamped Cedar Rapids
  • an already record-shattering flood
  • the epic surge that engulfed 10 square miles of the city

But, to paraphrase Freud, sometime a flood is just a flood. Or just a 500-year flood. Any way, you don’t need to write with a thesaurus by your side; we know what flood you’re covering.

This isn’t about this story’s writer, Orlan Love, who worked on a nice multimedia piece about the Cedar River a few weeks back. Its about the difference between calling a banana a banana and calling it an elongated yellow fruit. Nothing wrong with the occasional “deluge” or “epic surge,” but the words will have more impact if they are used sparingly.

(To answer the question asked in the story’s hed: With just two and a half weeks remaining in 2008, chances are the floods of this year will not happen again. But I’m no expert.)

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