This week’s devastating flooding is giving many people in southwest Iowa foul flashbacks to the disaster along the Missouri River eight years ago.
Iowa Senator Joni Ernst says she remembers well the impact of the 2011 flooding. Ernst visited Fremont and Mills counties over the weekend. Ernst says she hates that the area is experiencing another similar disaster. “I think we’re at a much worse place than where we were in 2011,” said Ernst. “Just horrible flashbacks from that time. I know folks are scrambling to get to high ground and figure out what their next moves are.”
The Republican from Red Oak says it’s too early to put a price tag on what repairs may cost after a second major flood along the river within a decade.
“We won’t be able to get solid estimates yet on how much damage, but looking back to 2011, we can gauge off of that, already,” Ernst says. “We haven’t had the water flowing over the interstate system as long as we did in 2011, but we don’t know how long it’s going to be there. It was a devastating flood several years back and I think we’re looking at some of the same this time around, as well.”
Southwest Iowa city and county leaders expressed their frustration to Ernst over not just a repeat flooding event, but the fact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased flows from Gavins Point Dam to 90,000 cubic feet per second before decreasing them. They also complained about a lack of communication and information from Corps officials regarding the floods of 2019.
Ernst says she intends to speak with Corps officials regarding their handling of this flood. “It impacts the folks on the ground down here,” she says. “So, we’ve got to figure out, were they releasing as much as they could have released early on? Were they holding it? That was the situation in 2011. They held water way too long, in my estimation. We’ll hear what the Corps has to say and hear what the solutions might be.”
In the meantime, Ernst echoes sentiments of local officials, urging residents to stay safe during the floods. “If you are in one of those low areas, if you are near a breach point, if the sheriff is asking you to evacuate, if the emergency manager is asking you to evacuate, you darn well better evacuate,” Ernst says. “We don’t want to be out looking for folks. We need everybody to be safe, be smart, go stay with family and friends.”
The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office reports a 52-year-old Nebraska man was killed when the vehicle he was riding in was swept off a road in southwest Iowa near Riverton on Friday. Three men were in the vehicle when it was caught by floodwaters after driving around a barricade. Aleido Rojas Galan of Norfolk was killed while the two other men survived. Midwestern flooding is blamed for two deaths, so far.
(By Ryan Matheny, KMA, Shenandoah)