Governor Chet Culver has appointed the head of the Iowa National Guard to lead the state’s storm recovery efforts. According to Culver, 45,000 square miles of Iowa has been hit by either flooding or tornadoes. "Rebuilding and recovery will not be easy," Culver says. "We are beginning an effort which could take years."

Storm damage will range in the "tens of billions" of dollars and the governor says it’s time to get to work. "This is going to far exceed the ’93 flood. It will pale, unfortunately, in comparison. This is literally going to be one of the top 10 worst natural disasters in the history of the United States," Culver says. "It’s possible it’ll be top five."

Dardis Culver has created a new "Rebuild Iowa Office" in the executive branch of state government and asked Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Ron Dardis to chair a separate, 15-person, bipartisan "Rebuild Iowa" Commission. "An incredible challenge lies ahead for all Iowans," Dardis says, "and I know Iowans are up to the task."

Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge says as she watched the natural disaster unfold she found it wasn’t really about the flooding or tornadoes, it was about the people. "From tornadoes and storms to rain and flood, we have really been put to a test and all across this state Iowans did what they’ve always done," Judge says. "They stepped up and took care of whatever they needed to."

Judge made her comments during a news conference this afternoon in the governor’s office where the state’s "Rebuild Iowa" efforts were outlined. Culver reviewed the extent of flood and tornado damage across the state.  "Three-hundred-40 separate cities. 1500 miles of roadways that are significantly damaged…400 miles of rail lines…dozens and dozens of bridges…major highways with infrastructure challenges," Culver said, "and on and on and on."

After speaking to reporters for over half an hour, Culver concluded with this. "We’re not trying to be alarmist here. We’re just trying to get the facts out about the magnitude of this natural disaster and it wasn’t one event," Culver said. "It was three tornadoes and massive flooding over three weeks."

Culver has directed state agency chiefs to review their budgets and redirect money, if necessary, to recovery-related expenses. The federal government has already paid out more than $80 million to Iowans hit by this spring’s weather.

AUDIO: Culver, Dardis news conference (mp3 runs 36 min)