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Rivers may recede but Iowans can't rest

BY SUSAN KIM | NORTHEAST IA. | July 24, 1999

NORTHEAST IA. (July 24, 1999) -- Even if Iowans are no longer sandbagging

in sweltering 95-degree heat -- and some continued through the night --

they aren't resting. The rivers are receding -- at least for the time being

-- but already some 3,000 homes are damaged and one person has died.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency declared four counties disaster

areas, with seven more declared by the state. While the National Guard and

state emergency management officials have led sandbagging efforts -- some

40,000 sandbags were moved into flood-prone areas -- the American Red Cross

and Salvation Army are meeting emergency needs by opening shelters and

distributing food and personal essentials.

Meanwhile Iowans are trying to come to terms with the spate of disasters

that seems to overrunning their state. With tornadoes in May, a build-up of

flooding in June, and near-record flood levels since the beginning of July,

many people are wondering when they'll be able to rest.

"We've just had multiple layers of disaster," said Lynda Albaugh, state

coordinator for the Iowa Interfaith Disaster Recovery Network (IIDRN).

"People haven't had time to recover from one disaster before they're struck

with another."

Many are comparing this to devastating floods that struck in 1993, and even

long-time residents can't quite believe how high the water has risen.

Father Dennis Juhl drove from the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in

Waterloo to be with his 91-year-old father in nearby Waverly, where some

1,800 people were evacuated yesterday. "He is in a nursing home, and all

along I've been trying to keep him aware of what's happening. I would tell

him that the water is up to a certain store or landmark, and he would say

'that could never happen.'"

"But today we could get out for a drive for the first time, and I showed

him his house, which was fine. The water poured into his neighbor's

basement but stopped short of his house."

"He was also worried about the house where he was born -- just outside of

Nashua -- right after his parents came to America from Denmark. That house

was okay, too. I was so relieved to see a young couple out in the yard. A

lot of old-timers like my father have very deep ties to this region," he


In Nashua, residents sandbagged day and night to keep flood waters from

dividing their town in half. Damages are still being assessed.

In Waverly, volunteers still tired from sandbagging Thursday went to offer

their help at churches and Red Cross shelters Friday. At the Redeemer

Lutheran Church, which remains open as a shelter, Russ Peatrowsky

volunteered for a two-hour shift after spending four hours sandbagging the

day before.

"We've had people bringing in food, and last night people manned the

telephones until 11 p.m. Right now we are helping the Red Cross set up a

tetanus shot clinic," he said.

The Rev. Don Pierce, pastor at the Church of Christ of Cedarloo, traveled

from Cedar Falls to Waverly to help people clean out their flooded homes.

"After the May disaster we distributed food, cleaning supplies, you name

it," he said. "We're geared up to do it again if we need to."

Other churches have to respond to their own damage. The basement of the

Antioch Baptist Church, one of the first churches built in Waterloo in

1913, is full of water.

"Many churches have been damaged," said Albaugh. "It's hard to respond to

the community when people are trying to decide whether or not to rebuild

their own church."

Many people are still out sandbagging, checking on neighbors, and assessing

damages. "It will take some time to find out what people's needs are," said

the Rev. Michael McDowell, interim pastor at the Bethel Presbyterian

Church, also in Waterloo.

When evacuations were ordered in Waterloo, members of the Burton Avenue

Baptist Church formed teams to help people move their possessions to higher


And in the town of Manly, where 13 inches of rain fell on Monday alone,

scores of people took shelter at the Bethel United Methodist Church.

IIDRN hopes to be the umbrella under which to organize faith-based efforts.

Already, faith-based groups such as Church World Service and Lutheran

Social Services are meeting with IIDRN to coordinate a long-term response

-- and to continue responding to past disasters. At least 1,100 homes

throughout eastern Iowa sustained damage from tornadoes and flooding in May.

"We still have members of our congregation who have been out of their homes

since May," said Colette Greenley, a member of the First United Methodist

Church in Independence. "And they're predicting more heavy rain for


Some families had just moved back into their homes only to be ousted by

floodwaters. While cleanup continues in some communities, others are still

bracing for more flooding. And heat advisories continue in southern Iowa,

with temperatures in the 90s and the heat index approaching 110 in Des


The Winnebago, Shell Rock, and Cedar rivers continue to run high,

threatening cities and small towns alike throughout northeast Iowa.

Flooding has also beenreported in southeastern Minnesota.

"It's just such an unusual year," said Evelyn Boice, church administrator

at the First Presbyterian Church in Cedar Falls. "Now it looks like it's

not over, which is just scary."

Posted July 24, 1999

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