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Iowa Storms - Floods, Tornadoes, and Aftermath - News Analysis

posted on June 12, 2008 at 11:21 AM

Yeager: We'll turn to David Pitt of the Associated Press for a briefing of the headlines. Now, we're talking on the heels of devastation, David, that we have tragedy in western Iowa. This is a tornado that went through last night around 6:30. What is the latest? We have four Boy Scouts dead. What more do we know?

Pitt: Well, this was a Boy Scout Camp, the Little Sioux Scout Ranch, it's about 40 miles north of Omaha on the Iowa side in Iowa near Blencoe, Iowa. And it appears that we do have four young boys dead, age 13 and 14, two 13 year olds, two 14 year olds, one from Eagle Grove, Iowa and the others from the Omaha area. The tornado came through, as you said, around 6:30. It looks like some of the boys at the camp were out camping or out walking, you know, hiking. This camp has hiking trails and a number of other amenities there. And some were also in tents and near a shelter area so a number of the boys went into the shelter area. And it appears that the four that died were in the shelter area, there was a brick or a stone, I believe, fireplace that collapsed and it appears that that's where the four died.

Yeager: Is that the shelter where they would go for any storm or was that just the closest shelter?

Pitt: I think it was the closest and I don't know that there's actually a storm shelter on the property. They were alarmed that the tornado was coming so there was a little bit of an opportunity to get some of the boys in the building.

Yeager: And you talked about four dead, 48 injured. How many were at the camp in general?

Pitt: There was a total of 93 boys and 25 camp staff members in total.

Yeager: Well, that's on that story. Let's talk a little bit more about another natural disaster and this is the rain and the flood that's going on. But we want to talk about some of the corn impact. Iowa is the leader in corn production in the country. There is a lot of the corn crop in the state under water right now. We're looking at $7 corn, record levels already, could go higher, and could go to $8. I'm not asking you to be an ag. expert right now, David, but what does $7 corn and what does the flood mean to this corn crop?

Pitt: Well, I think it's interrelated in that obviously the flood is going to create a shortage from what we had anticipated the corn crop to be both in the number of acres that are going to be available for harvest and I think they're even saying the yields could be reduced because of the wet situation. I think the latest numbers that I've seen; corn production is expected to be around 11.7 billion bushels which is about 10% less than what it had been earlier anticipated. I think they had expected about 86 million acres of corn to be planted in the United States and that was about 8% lower than last year and obviously we're going to be getting an update on that I think late this month, toward the end of the month and so we'll see where we are with that. But we'll definitely see some impact from the flooding.

Yeager: Well, it's the 12th of June, it's pretty late to be doing a re-plant. Are we looking at any of that? Or is it going to have to just sit?

Pitt: I think there will be areas that will not be able to be planted at this point. I mean, corn requires a certain number of days to mature and we'll probably be past the availability for that. Some farmers perhaps may consider soybeans if that's even an option for them. But obviously there is just going to be a loss of some acres. I mean, anyone who has driven around the low-lying corn fields will notice that it's either completely flooded out, completely under water or so wet that the plants just won't grow.

Yeager: Let's talk about some of the floods now going on. Cedar Rapids seems to be getting the brunt of the storm. They're on the Cedar River. They're looking at a flood that is going to top an 1851 record. How high is it? How high is it expected to go? What has been the impact?

Pitt: Well, it looks like the impact today is that downtown Cedar Rapids was evacuated. There was a breach in a levee there which generated a lot of water coming into the downtown area and so businesses were closed, people were advised to stay away. I think it's something like 100 blocks of the Cedar Rapids area flooded, 3900 homes evacuated, that's I think about 10,000 people. So, it's a significant impact for that area. And so it looks like they're going to be suffering for a while until some of this crest goes downstream.

Yeager: And it's Iowa's second largest city and they did have some warning. We've seen the rains upstream. We'll talk about that in a moment. But it had come down through Waverly, through Cedar Falls, through Waterloo, through Vinton, so they knew this was coming. Does it sound like people were prepared and the city was prepared enough?

Pitt: I think there was some preparation but I think the breach of the levee came really late overnight, in the middle of the night. I think there was some preparation, I think people had been advised to be prepared but there were I think pictures and accounts of people grabbing suitcases full of stuff and just getting out of there, I'm sure business owners and people who just needed to evacuate. There are always folks who want to see how bad it's going to get before they leave and so there was some last minute evacuation.

Yeager: Or they don't believe the forecast, it's not going to hit this time, never has. David Pitt of the Associated Press, thanks as always for stopping by tonight.

Pitt: Thank you.


Tags: corn Iowa news tornadoes