The 2019 floods devastated many Iowa communities, including Hamburg. (Photo by Fremont County Emergency Management)

Many Iowa communities are coping with population losses, but a southwest Iowa town that was devastated by flooding in 2019 isn’t giving up hope. Pacific Junction had fewer than 500 people before the floods, but just 84 people live there now.

City Clerk Korrena Neppl says after the flood, some people had no option but to leave. She says there’s been “dramatic change,” especially as homes are torn down.

Neppl says, “You take a drive through Pacific Junction or just living here, you know, you see your neighbors’ houses going down and they’re never coming back.”

The town is working to buy back and demolish more than 130 flood-damaged homes. Many of those lots will become green space, but Neppl says state funding will let them re-sell some lots to be built on in the future.

Pacific Junction Mayor Andy Young says the flood caused destruction like the town’s never seen before.

“It was pretty devastating to drive through the town in a boat and you’re up at the heighth of your city hall,” Young says. “We had between nine to 11 feet of water, depending on what part of town you were in.”

Mayor Young is a third generation resident of Pacific Junction and has stayed in town and rebuilt, but he reminisces about what it was like before the flood.

“The kids could go out and ride their bikes. Everybody looked after everybody’s kids, for the most part,” Young says. “It was small town Iowa where everybody kind of helped with watching the kids.”

Young says his vision for the future is to bring a few businesses to town. He’d also like to sell some vacant lots so people can build on them and the town can grow. Neppl and Young made their comments on the Iowa Public Radio program “Talk of Iowa.”

(By Katie Peikes, Iowa Public Radio)