High winds, floods batter Iowa


SOUTHWESTERN IOWA (June 20, 1998) -- Residents of Southwestern Iowa watched as high water steadily receded

Friday while Des Moines, in the center of the state, was hit with flash

floods following storms that dropped more than 4-inches of rain an hour.

Floods during the past week destroyed nearly 40 homes and damaged hundreds

of others, according to preliminary assessments.

Almost as if to add insult to injury to disaster-weary state residents,

possible tornadoes were reported Thursday in several locations, downing

thousands of trees and blowing off roofs. The most serious storm was

reported in the northern Iowa town of Nashua, where at least one home was

destroyed and 70 others were damaged.

The tornado capped a week of state-wide disasters that began Sunday when

more than 13-inches of rain fell on already drenched land in western Iowa.

The city of Hamburg in Freemont

County, a small town of 1,300 people was the hardest hit in the week of

flooding. There, sandbaggers raised the height of its 3-mile levee along

the Nishnabotna River.

The town was evacuated late Tuesday after the Army Corps of Engineers warned

of more water than had been predicted earlier. Two branches of the

river converge north of the town. Most residents were allowed to return

home by Friday.

Tim Burke, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency

(FEMA) in nearby Kansas City, said this month's flooding

was the most severe in Iowa since the widespread disastrous floods of 1993.

High waters, and threatened levies, brought out response from

the National Guard who helped Hamburg residents with sand bags and


Members of the Hamburg Inter-Church Council, originally formed during

the 1993 floods, served as chaplains at the shelter and helped with the

sandbagging operations.

"The pastors in town come from a very diverse group from extremely

liberal to ultra-conservative," said Scott Williams, pastor of the Hamburg

Assembly of God and president of the Council. "But . . . when we're hurting

or we

have problems, we can go to any pastor in town and there's

somebody there for us. They're a very close-knit group of people."

Even as the waters receded, representatives of Church World Service and

other national faith-based disaster response organizations are determining

what additional assistance will be needed to help those affected by the

week of disasters.

Lutheran Social Services is providing help, said Christine Iverson, of

the Lutheran Disaster Response team. And through its Week of Compassion

program, the Disciples of Christ, has sent funds to provide assistance to


Northwest Missouri has also been affected, according to the Rev. Ralph

Clark, pastor of

United Methodist Churches in Rock Port and Watson -- only a few miles south

of Hamburg.

"There's already been crop damage around here," Clark said. In addition, a

hog farmer in Watson reportedly a loss of 900 head in the flooding. Clark

said nearby Interstate 29, a four-lane highway, that links Hamburg and

Watson, has parts under water and remains closed.

While the crisis in Hamburg appears to be under control, weather

forecasters are predicting more rain through at least Thursday. This could

create other problems. Most of the

major river systems in the state are higher than normal according to

Dave Miller, executive officer of the Iowa Emergency

Management Division. -- Steve Gust contributed to this article.

Posted June 20, 1998

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