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Iowa Faces Historic Flooding

State rocked by worst flooding in 15 years

By Karen Fanning and Dante A. Ciampaglia | June 16 , 2008
Volunteer Grayson Rotter, 9, of Amana shovels crushed rock as volunteers fill sandbags along Madison Street in front of the Lindquist Center on the University of Iowa Campus Friday, June 13, 2008 in Iowa City. (Photo: ©Brian Ray/Cedar Rapids Gazette/Rapport Press/NewsCom)
Volunteer Grayson Rotter, 9, of Amana shovels crushed rock as volunteers fill sandbags along Madison Street in front of the Lindquist Center on the University of Iowa Campus Friday, June 13, 2008 in Iowa City. (Photo: ©Brian Ray/Cedar Rapids Gazette/Rapport Press/NewsCom)

Days of soaking rains have left much of Iowa flooded.

"This is unprecedented in terms of its power and destruction and scope," Iowa Governor Chet Culver said about the devastating floods.

In all, nine rivers are at or above historic flood levels. On Thursday, the Cedar River swelled, flooding an estimated 100 blocks in Cedar Rapids. The Iowa River in Iowa City reached a record crest. A record high-water mark was also set along the Des Moines River.

Governor Culver has declared 83 of the state's 99 counties disaster areas.

Some 36,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes across the state. Rescue crews used boats to get to trapped residents as floodwaters topped stop signs. Many cars are submerged.

"It's going door-to-door to make sure people don't need to be rescued," Dave Koch of the Cedar Rapids Fire Department said last week. "Because right now, they can't get out on their own. It's just too deep."

Four people have died due to the flooding.

More than 3,300 Iowa National Guardsmen are assisting in evacuating residents, sandbagging riverbanks, and distributing water and other supplies. Another 700 troops are expected to assist in Iowa early this week.

Floods affect Iowa, nation, and world

Governor Culver spoke with President George W. Bush and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff last week. He vowed to secure federal assistance for residents as they struggle to recover from the floods.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have suffered from the floods in our country. I know there's a lot of people hurting right now," President Bush said from France.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said that it has already received more than 12,000 disaster assistance applications as a result of the flooding. These applications came from Iowa and two other states hard hit by recent storms, Indiana and Wisconsin.

Flooding in Iowa
A view of downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa shows widespread flooding from the raging Cedar River on Thursday June 12. Heavy rains continue to pound large portions of Iowa and as flooding continues officials are scrambling asrivers are expected to crest at rec

Among those Iowans who will need help are the state's farmers. The Governor called the damage to Iowa's farm fields "heartbreaking." Some officials have estimated that "millions of acres" are underwater.

The loss of crops on this land has already affected global food prices.

Prices for grain, corn, and soybeans soared after the flooding in Iowa. The state lost 10 percent of its corn crop and 20 percent of its soybean crop.

The loss of these crops will more than likely result in higher food prices at supermarkets this summer.

An end in sight?

The recent record-setting floods are the worst since 1993, when 50 people were killed and 55,000 homes were damaged or destroyed across the Midwest.

The damage price tag for this latest flood is expected to climb above a billion dollars, Governor Culver said.

Weather forecasts predict mostly clear weather for Iowa in coming days. This change of fortune will allow state officials to get a better idea of just how much damage the flooding caused.

Authorities are also preparing to allow residents back into their neighborhoods and homes. A list of safe areas will likely be released early this week, and people will begin returning home as early as Tuesday, Cedar Rapids Fire Department spokesman Dave Brown said.

Currently, the American Red Cross has 30 shelters housing 720 people displaced by the floods.

Starting Tuesday, the Red Cross will have kitchens set up in Iowa to serve nearly 100,000 meals to residents every day. The Red Cross also plans to spend $15 million on flood and storm relief throughout the Midwest.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK

Read today’s story and answer the following question.

blog it When a natural disaster happens like the floods in Iowa communities come together. Everyone pitches in to help. No one is too young or too old. How do you think kids can help their neighbors in Iowa? How should kids help other kids around the world hurt by natural disasters in places like China and Myanmar?

Tell us what you think on the Scholastic News Online Blog!


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About the Author

Karen Fanning is a contributing writer for Scholastic News Online.

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