U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is in Iowa, promising the federal government will stand "shoulder to shoulder" with Midwesterners who are cleaning up after tornadoes and battling through floods.
"If there is a word that comes from the local authorities to evacuate, do it. You don’t play games with rising water or with Mother Nature," Chertoff said. "It is much better to leave unnecessarily than to stick it out and find that you have to be rescued or even worse."
Officials in Iowa’s capital city urged folks in a low-lying section of Des Moines to voluntarily evacuate. About 220 homes and 30 businesses are in the area which is protected by a levee, but threatened by a surging Des Moines River. Hundreds have been evacuated in eastern Iowa towns, with more evacuations predicted in the city of Cedar Rapids as the marauding Cedar River floods.
The nation’s homeland security chief was in western Iowa this morning, though, visiting the boy scout camp where four scouts were killed by last night’s tornado. "This has been a remarkable onslaught of weather — everything from flooding, unbelievable rain and of course tornadoes — all descending at once and I think everybody had to be particularly touched by thought of the finest young people from this region being caught up in a tornado which struck them like a bowling ball and against which they had no chance," Chertoff said in a news conference in Blencoe, Iowa, which is near the scout camp.