Damage climbs as floodwaters recede
DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) – As floodwaters finally receded along parts of the Mississippi River, the top federal emergency official visited sodden towns in Iowa and Illinois on Thursday to survey damage and offer support.
”I’d like to say congratulations, quite frankly, to the Quad Cities area and folks up and down the Mississippi,” Joe Allbaugh, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in Davenport. ”They have learned their lessons from the ’93 flood. They were prepared, as the mayor and governor have said, to handle this in a much better fashion.”
Not that the region is out of the woods: Heavy rain last weekend is expected to send another Mississippi River crest through Minnesota early next week.
Flooding this month has swamped parts of North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. Hundreds of people remain out of their homes in Wisconsin.
Damage is still being tallied, but the estimate so far in Iowa and Minnesota alone has reached nearly $10 million, with another $3 million in Grand Forks, N.D. More than 3,500 homes, mostly in Wisconsin and Iowa, have water damage and more than 30 counties are under state disaster declarations.
Hundreds of businesses have been closed or disrupted, and the Army Corps of Engineers said locks on the Mississippi from Minneapolis to Guttenberg, Iowa, will be closed to navigation through at least the second week of May.
The river crested here Tuesday at 22.3 feet, its third-highest level on record. The crest was expected to reach Quincy, Ill., 130 miles north of St. Louis, by Friday but flooding in the lower reaches of the river is not expected to be severe.
Officials said many communities are seeing the benefits of buyouts and flood-control efforts, some of it put in place after devastating damage in 1993.
One place that hasn’t put in permanent flood protection is Davenport. The city of 98,300 is the largest urban area on the upper Mississippi without it, a fact Allbaugh noted earlier this week.
”I mean, the question is: How many times will the American taxpayer have to step in and take care of this flooding, which could be easily prevented by building levees and dikes?” Allbaugh said Monday.
Mayor Phil Yerington called the criticism an insult to families trying to save their homes.
On Thursday, Allbaugh made a display of draping his arm around the mayor as the two boarded a bus to tour flood damage. Allbaugh, who also toured parts of Illinois, refused to talk about the controversy or whether there should be changes in the way federal funds are given to communities in flood plains.
During the 45-minute tour, Davenport officials showed Allbaugh aerial photographs of the flood and insisted the city has taken steps since the mid-1980s to mitigate damage.
”We were able to show him and the world that we are a river town – we are a great river town – and that we know we have floods and we expect to carry our own and we’re not looking for a free handout,” Yerington said.
On the Net:
Army Corps of Engineers: http://www.usace.army.mil
National Weather Service: http://www.crh.noaa.gov
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