Governor Tom Vilsack is touring northern and eastern Iowa today to look at flood and storm damage. The Governor and state Emergency Management director Ellen Gordon lifted off from Camp Dodge this morning in a National Guard helicopter to tour Mason City, Elk Port and Independence. Vilsack talked to reporters before leaving Vilsack’s declared 24 of those counties state disaster areas, and is asking that 12 of the 24 also be declared federal disaster areas. They estimate that 14-hundred homes in 49 counties suffered some kind of storm or flood damage. The twelve counties included in the Presidential Disaster Declaration request are: Bremer, Buchahan, Butler, Cass, Cerro Gordo, Clayton, Delaware, Fayette, Hancock, Humboldt, Jones, and Mitchell. They don’t however have a dollar figure on the damage, but Vilsack says it’ll run into the millions. The Governor says he’s thankful that only one person died in the storm, and 23 were injured, but not seriously. Some of the people who lost their homes do not have insurance, and Vilsack says the state’s trying to see what can be done if federal funds aren’t available.He says they’re looking at using some state economic development efforts, but he says he can’t say right now what that might be as the state hasn’t done such a thing in the past. The Governor thanked all those who have volunteered to help with the cleanup and says he’s confident residents will bounce back.He says there’s a tremendous spirit and regardless of what Mother Nature has, he says our spirit is stronger and we’ll get through it. The Governor toured the area surrounding the Mason City Water Plant and homes in the North Hampshire area adjacent to the Winnebago River. Vilsack spoke with Rex Bergo about the advantages and disadvantages of putting up a levee to hold back the water.He says they love the trees along the river, but says if it comes down to the trees versus saving homes, the trees would go. Bergo told the Governor they’d still have a beautiful view no matter what. Mason City Mayor Jean Marinos thanked Vilsack for all the support that the state has given after the flooding started. She says they appreciate the governor’s quick action in making a state disaster declaration for the area. Marinos says the town will bounce back.She says they’re doing their best to clean up and she says they know it’s going to be a long process. Vilsack is also visiting the Independence, Garber and Elkport areas.
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