Flooding continues to batter Iowa

BY GEORGE PIPER | WATERLOO, Iowa | July 23, 1999

WATERLOO, Iowa (July 23, 1999) -- While northeast Iowa communities begin

cleaning up from this week's flooding, residents downstream in the Cedar

Falls/Waterloo area are bracing for major flooding for the second time

since May.

Flood waters poured through cities and towns of all sizes along the

rain-swelled Winnebago, Shell Rock and Cedar Rivers Monday through

Wednesday, leaving people to seek dry shelter elsewhere. On Wednesday, the

city of Waverly ordered 1,800 people evacuated with some taking shelter at

Redeemer Lutheran Church. Officials also are keeping a close watch on

bridges in danger of being washed away, said John Benson, spokesman for the

Iowa Emergency Management Division.

Iowa National Guard and state department of transportation workers are

helping remove debris as water recedes from the northern-most flooded

regions hit by record or near-record levels.

Federal disaster aid has been made available for flood survivors in four

Iowa counties under a major disaster declaration issued for the state

Thursdayby President Clinton.

The declaration was made after the Federal Emergency Management Agency

(FEMA) reported that more than 2,500 homes in Black Hawk, Butler, Jones

and Woodbury counties sustained some degree of damage from severe storms

and flooding that hit the state starting July 2.

The declaration follows another issued for the state earlier this year

because of damage from tornadoes and floods last May.

The state has also declared Bremer, Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Floyd, Mitchell,

Howard and Worth counties as disaster areas, and is monitoring the damage to

see if these additional counties will also qualify for federal assistance.

One death is blamed on this week's bout of flooding.

River levels had been falling after rain ended on Monday, but several inches

of fresh rain Tuesday sent water over banks and into nearby communities.

Residents in some area drew comparisons to 1993's flooding that left much of

the same region waterlogged.

The state is still collecting damage assessments from flooded areas.

Preliminary reports indicate more than 100 homes damaged in Charles City and

at least 37 in Rockford, and emergency officials in the affected counties

all acknowledge some type of flood-related casualties.

The Iowa Interfaith Disaster Response Network (IIDRN) is allocating funds

primarily in the form of individual grants for survivors who may have unmet

needs, said Susan Ingham, chairwoman of the IIDRN and an officials with the

United Church of Christ in Iowa. In addition to cash, the organization will

utilize volunteers to tend to survivors' emotional needs as well.

"To watch a farmer, who's just had a $2 million loss, stand there and cry is

a hard thing," she said. IIDRN communicates with FEMA, the American Red

Cross and other faith-based volunteer groups to see what is being done and

to follow through with the recovery.

A series of tornadoes and floods since May has stretched IIDRN's resources,

and kept it busy providing services and trying to raise cash for its

operation, noted Ingham. The organization is still working with communities

affected by the May disasters, and is slowly rebuilding its money pool to

meet the challenges presented by new disasters.

Sandbagging efforts are under way to protect homes and businesses in the

Cedar Falls/Waterloo area, an area of some 100,000 people with the

misfortune of being downstream from where the Winnebago and Shell Rock

rivers empty into the Cedar River. With extreme heat and humidity present,

volunteers are working in short shifts to keep fresh.

A 21-foot crest -- similar to the high water mark in May -- is expected Friday

afternoon along the Cedar River, Benson said. State officials, however, do

not anticipate serious flooding south of the area.

"The basin flattens out and distributes the water more evenly the further it

goes," Benson said.

Posted July 23, 1999

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