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6/16/2008

Floods hammer Iowa City

Breaking Earth News
Skywatch-Media Special Report: Floods Devastate Iowa
Iowa, USA
Image:
Columbus Junction city councilman Mark Huston, left, and public works employee Fred Lukavsky inspect a flooded plain along the Iowa River. Sandbags failed to stop the torrent.
JULIE JACOBSON: ASSOCIATED PRESS

IN PICTURES: THE IOWA FLOODS

Sandbagging has failed as towns scurry to battle the surge

IOWA CITY, IOWA — A week's work of frantic sandbagging by students, professors and the National Guard couldn't spare this scenic college town from the surging Iowa River, which has swamped more than a dozen campus buildings and forced the evacuation Sunday of hundreds of nearby homes.

The swollen river, which bisects this city of about 60,000 residents, was topping out at about 31.5 feet — a foot and a half below earlier predictions. But it still posed a threat and wasn't expected to begin receding until tonight.

"I'm focused on what we can save," University of Iowa President Sally Mason said as she toured her stricken campus. "We'll deal with this when we get past the crisis. We're not past the crisis yet."


Some numbers from the Iowa floods:

Deaths from flooding: 3

Evacuees: Roughly 36,000 Iowans in 11 counties, including 25,000 in Cedar Rapids.

Counties declared federal disaster areas: 24. A total of 83 counties are covered by a disaster declaration by Gov. Chet Culver.

Iowa National Guard soldiers deployed: 2,500

Sandbags: 4.8 million

Gallons of drinking water distributed: 180,930

Acres of soybeans lost: 2 million

Acres of corn lost: 1.3 million

Tillable acres of farmland under water: 16 percent of the state's 25 million acres.

The lesson from Iowa's floods

Image: A boy carries his bicycle through flood waters in Des Moines, Iowa.(AP Photo/John Gaps III)

“The heavy rains and flooding will have national, and even global, consequences through rising food prices,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. There’s nothing the government can do about the weather, but it can avoid compounding the pain with “bad policy.” So the devastating rains have provided yet another reason for Washington to abandon harmful ethanol subsidies, which drive up grain prices, and inflationary monetary policy.

The floods have hurt so badly they’re “likely to change the way we do a few things,” said David Yepsen in the Des Moines Register, and they should. For one thing, the flood proves Iowa has neglected its aging infrastructure for too long,” and the state’s roads, bridges and, “yes, levees,” just weren’t adequate to face this test. “We're now paying a terrible price for that neglect.”

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