tIowans are still cleaning up and trying to get their lives in order 16 months after the devastating floods of 2008. Many people, however, are too overwhelmed to finish the job.
Duane Blum of Mason City is a volunteer with the United Way of North Central Iowa. He and his wife Chris are still meeting flood victims who haven’t made an effort to clean up their homes.
“Until you’ve experienced flooding, you don’t know how it mentally effects you…the despair and helplessness,” Blum said.
Many homeowners decided to hold off on cleaning their home to wait and see if they would qualify for a government buyout. “And then some of them are afraid to ask for help or they’re embarrassed because they think they should be able to do it by themselves,” Blum said.
Even if they receive a buyout, homeowners still need to get everything out of the home before its demolished. “A lot of the (homes) we’re doing this year are ones that they’ve done part of it and then they just got wore out or depressed from it and can’t finish the job,” Blum said.
There are now 25 long-term recovery committees across Iowa. Many of those organizations did not exist prior to last year’s floods and tornadoes. Blum says volunteer groups in the state have learned a lot about the long-term response that’s need in the event of a disaster.
“Three months after the flood, nothing was happening, so we lost that time when we should have been doing recovery work,” Blum said. “Now, we’ve got this organization set up so next time…any kind of disaster, we can step in and start the process right away instead of having to create the whole organization.”
State officials say volunteers are still needed to assist with recovery efforts in many flood-damaged areas around the state. Individuals or groups can call the Iowa Concern Hotline to learn how they can help. That hotline number is (800) 447-1985.