Monday, June 24, 2024

Governor seeks federal aid for northwest Iowa flood victims

Governor seeks federal aid for northwest Iowa flood victims

(Radio Iowa) Governor Kim Reynolds is calling flood related losses in northwest Iowa “staggering” and she is asking for a presidential disaster declaration to trigger federal aid for flood victims.

During a brief Sunday afternoon, Governor Reynolds said the preliminary estimate is “at least 1900 properties” in 22 counties have been swamped by flood waters and hundreds of homes have been destroyed.

“I can tell you the devastation is severe and it’s widespread,” Reynolds said. “In almost every community impacted the rivers crested several feet above record levels from the floods of 1993.”

Over a thousand Iowans stayed in emergency shelters Saturday night. By Sunday, at least 10 communities had no drinking water.

“The seven day forecast calls for more rain,” Reynolds said, “which means flooding may continue to be an issue and may impact other parts of the state as well.”

Sixteen river gauges in northwest Iowa have already recorded historic flood levels. On Sunday night, Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management director John Benson met with local officials about making preparations in the other places where those flood waters are headed.

“This is a very serious flood that we’re in right now and it is not going to cease,” Benson said. “It is going to blossom across the state.”

Benson said the key is protecting critical infrastructure, like drinking water plants. “Where it does become a challenge is if you have, like we had up in northwest Iowa…a completely excessive, unforecastable rainfall,” Benson said, “…but if we get normal stuff, they’re on top of it…We’re already having those conversations about what we can do to get better prepared for what we’re going to see here in the future.”

Last week over 10 inches of rain fell in northwest Iowa and the nearby river basins in Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota that drain into northwest Iowa. Donna Dubberke, the meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Johnston, said that’s eight times the average amount.

“That water is now working its way down through the system,” she said, “so the concern with the forecast is we remain in an active weather pattern, which means periodic rain chances throughout the next week to 10 days.”

The governor is urging Iowans who get evacuation orders to heed those warnings. Helicopters were deployed to rescue residents after a levee was breached in Rock Valley and Iowa Department of Natural Resouces staff performed 250 water rescues throughout northwest Iowa on Saturday. Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Bayens said state troopers witnessed two drivers who ignored a “road closed” sign.

“Kind of barreled headlong into floodwaters, ended up getting swept away,” Bayens said. “We had one individual that was on the cusp of losing his life had the Iowa State Patrol Air Wing not spotted his heat signature in the water and was able to dispatch boats in a timely way to rescue him.”

Iowa Department of Transportation director Scott Marler said his agency has moved 23 pumps into northwest Iowa to try to clear water from roadways. On Sunday, the Iowa DOT moved 5000 Hesco barriers to build temporary levies in key locations.

Reynolds is asking President Biden to activate federal assistance for individuals as well as low interest Small Business Administration loans for businesses the following nine counties: Buena Vista, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola, Plymouth and Sioux Counties. The governor’s also seeking federal help for local governments in 22 counties that are dealing with damage to public infrastructure and the cost of removing debris. Those counties are Buena Vista, Cerro Gordo, Cherokee, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Floyd, Hancock, Humboldt, Kossuth, Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Pocahontas, Sioux, Webster, Winnebago, Woodbury, Worth and Wright.

On Sunday afternoon Governor Reynolds told reporters Rock Valley may be unable to quickly revive its drinking water plant and the Iowa National Guard may step in with a temporary system that produces drinking water for the community.

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