One of the hardest hit communities in the record flooding in June was Palo, a town of 900 residents northwest of Cedar Rapids.
Today, most people passing through the small town would find it hard to believe nearly every home and business was buried under the Cedar River just over two months ago.
Tom Watson works for the Palo Public Works Department. “For the most, you wouldn’t know anything happened (unless) you drove through our town at night and the houses aren’t lit up…nobody’s staying in them because they’re not ready for occupancy,” Watson said. The flood damage to homes in Palo is estimated at 22 million dollars. More than half of the homes remain uninhabitable.
Watson estimates that 200 of the roughly 460 homes in Palo have people that are actually staying in the home overnight. “Some of them are living in campers in their driveway, some are in FEMA trailers and some are staying with relatives,” Watson said. A number of residents are racing against time, hoping to get back in their homes before cold weather arrives. Watson says others are just hoping to survive financially.
“There’s quite a handful of people that are caught with a high mortgage rate and an SBA loan,” Watson said. “If they take SBA loan, their high mortgage rate and what FEMA gave them for a buyout – they’re mortgage is going to be upside down tremendously. I’m hearing from a lot of people that are unhappy that their mortgage lenders won’t help them negotiate a better term so they can survive and stay in the town, even with an upside down mortgage.”
A Rebuild Palo Fund has been established to help local residents with home repairs and other bills. Watson says very few people are moving away from the town and only 20 people have requested information about a home buy-out program.