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Iowa Natural Disasters 2008

Ask the Experts - Your Disaster Questions Answered

On Thursday June 19, experts from several organizations answered viewer questions as part of a live hour-long episode of The Iowa Journal.

Panelists included:

  • Tom Newton, Iowa Director of Public Health
  • Karen Hyatt, Iowa Department of Human Services
  • Kevin Mahoney, Chief Engineer Iowa DOT
  • Lt. Governor Patty Judge, Governor’s Homeland Security Advisor
  • David Miller, Research and Commodity Services for the Iowa Farm Bureau

Read the full transcript of the program
Watch the entire program online

Read on for a summary of selected questions and answers from the live event:

Government Response

Lieutenant Governor, give us a status report. How is the state doing?

Judge: I think we're doing remarkably well. This has certainly been an event that has just seemed to have gone on and on. In fact, we were talking about dates today and, you know, we are actually getting close to a month of either tornadoes, floods or both. So, despite this I think people are doing well, people have their chins up and they're starting to talk about recovery now.

Yeager: Talking about recovery in many areas, we talked about it in central Iowa, they had the water, last week it was Cedar Rapids and then Iowa City this week towards Burlington. How are they doing in the southeast portion of the state?

Judge: Well, of course, when you're hit with a wall of water and you lose your home, you lose your possessions, you lose your business it takes a little while to absorb that and to start thinking about the next day. But upstream people are beginning to remove debris, they are beginning to think about long-term plans for rebuild and that will happen in southeast Iowa too in the next few days I'm sure.

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How would you rate the cooperation between federal and state government in responding to this situation?

Judge: We are working very, very closely with our federal partners here in Iowa and I really think that this is a success story. We all saw the footage from Louisiana and Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina and it seemed that things just didn't work. That's hard to say when you're not really there but it appeared that way to us. I will say that FEMA has been on the spot with us, they've been out at the Armory with us since the beginning of this event. They continue to work very closely with us. The Corp of Engineers has been front and center with us as has the National Guard. All the pieces have come together to really give us the kind of response we've been able to do and the Governor and I are very grateful for the help that they're giving us.

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How do you as a head of state try to alleviate rumors and try to keep people calm?

Judge: There has been a tremendous amount of rumors and we have tried to get factual information out as quickly and as often as we possibly can and we will continue to do that. And I would, again, suggest if people have concerns that they call the numbers that you're posting, that they call the Iowa Concern Hotline and let us know that and we'll try to get a straight answer. Debris removal is something that we are concerned about, it's something we're trying to act very, very quickly upon and we will continue to do that. I know people are concerned and they have a right to be concerned because there are lots of things that were washed into the rivers that we don't like to have there. And we're dealing with it as quickly as we can and maybe Tom can talk a little more about that.

Newton: We're dealing with local public health departments who are asking us a number of questions. They're getting calls from their constituents. Can I go back into my home? What kind of chemicals, bacteria do we need to be worried about? And basically what we're doing is telling people to take precautions that they would normally take if they're going into an environment like that. We want them to wear eyewear, we want them to wear a respirator to cover up to prevent dust and dirt and any dried chemicals from getting into their system. We want to make sure they're wearing gloves and they're washing their hands to prevent any kind of exposure that may occur in there. Certainly they ran into this problem in Louisiana that they had all the contaminants that came into it. I don't think we're in the same boat as they were. They had a number of chemical plants down there that were flooded but we do have a lot of herbicides and pesticides in this state and so people need to be mindful about that and limit their time in the flood waters.

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What will be done for housing for the poor and the elderly and how long will shelters be open?

Judge: Shelters will be open as long as they need to be, as long as people have a need for shelters we'll make certain that that is provided. In many communities there is some existing housing, there are apartments that are available. Often times they have some income restrictions on them, we know we can wave that and make that housing available. Again, the cities that are really concerning us are those cities like Palo where just literally everything is gone. In that case we are going to have to think very creatively, those discussions began today with FEMA and we will continue those until we solve the problem.

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What is being done to help businesses recover from recent flooding?

Judge: Well, businesses, of course, have been impacted there and, in fact, the large employers in Cedar Rapids, many of them are not operating tonight or today. And we, again, are beginning discussions with them to see how we can assist them as a state. It is our desire to get Cedar Rapids up and running as quickly as we can. They really, really took it on the chin in this event and our hearts are out to all of them but as we said at the beginning of this program, we're tough and we are resilient and we will rebuild.

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Who can Iowans call to get answers to questions about flooding and recovery?

Judge: The easiest way, the best way here in Iowa to call if you have a question is to call the Iowa Concern Hotline. That, again, is 1-800-447-1985. They are taking in all kinds of calls, they are routing those calls then to the appropriate agency or the appropriate place. And if you do have a concern we want to hear from you, we want this to work and we want to be responsive.

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What is the procedure going to be for letting Cedar Rapids residents back in their homes?

Judge: It is very important that people stay safe. Our most important part of this entire episode is that we make certain that people stay safe. There's lots of things that can happen in that house after the family left and among those may be basement walls caving in, loose electricity, the gas valves that are open, natural gas build up in the houses. It is really important that the house is checked out before people go back. So, an assessment team is working in every community as quickly as they can to go into the house, that includes someone from the utilities who can check the electricity and gas and make a determination whether or not the house is safe for re-entry and the moment it is they put a green tag on the door. If you get a red tag on the door you've got a problem.

Yeager: I would imagine there's some frustration, Karen, I don't know if you saw the pictures out of Cedar Rapids on Friday where there were homeowners very upset about that. We kind of talked about channeling some of that. Patience, understanding, we just can't preach that enough.

Hyatt: That's true and I think that homeowners also need to recognize the Lieutenant Governor has just said that safety is the key factor and if a person isn't being let into an area it's not a personal issue, it's a safety issue and I think the more that we stress that people will realize that it's not about their home, it's not about them as an individual, it's because Iowa is trying to keep them safe and timing is everything, even in this.

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Are we going to see FEMA trailers coming to the state?

Judge: I do not think we will see the travel trailers that they have seen before but we are going to have to address very quickly the fact that there are communities that are now facing an extreme shortage of housing. The small town of Palo is almost totally destroyed. There's literally no homes available in Palo, Oakville. I talked to the mayor in Cedar Rapids today and she is estimating over 1000 homes in Cedar Rapids or families that will not be able to go back into their homes at all or at least quickly. So, we are going to have to work very, very hard to find housing for people. We do not want them to leave Iowa, we want them to stay here and help us grow Iowa and so we're going to work hard to try to help them find a nice place to live.

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Who should someone living in Illinois call for flood assistance?

Judge: I would suggest that they do try to get a hold of a FEMA number and register that... This is 1-800-621-FEMA and that is 1-800-621-3362. I think if the listener or the viewer called that maybe FEMA could get them pointed in the right way.

Yeager: According to a viewer in Henderson County, Illinois... she was told by FEMA that until the President declares the country a national emergency -- first of all, is there such a thing, a federal disaster declaration, but is there another level above that?

Judge: I am not aware of that. Here in Iowa our Governor declared 83 counties as Governor's disasters. We then immediately ask for a federal declaration or presidential declaration for those 83 counties. The assessment is done on a county by county basis by FEMA and once they establish that there is in fact a legitimate disaster that reaches their threshold then that county by county is declared. And here in Iowa we've had very good results. We have, I believe, 55 out of the 83 right now that have been declared presidential disasters so it's a process. It's not fast and I understand, you know, that that part of Illinois is just now into the flood fighting stage and I would say in a day or two, I know it's hard to wait, but in a day or two I would think they will get their designation.

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Government Disaster Response Resources

  • Red Cross: Iowa - Find phone numbers and contact information for your local Red Cross chapter.
  • American Red Cross - For flood-related articles and donation information.
  • FEMA Disaster Handout - Instructions for applying for storm aid and insurance, including temporary housing and small business loans.
  • The State of Iowa 2008 Flood Resource Center links to many flood-related services, including donation and volunteer links, links to FEMA, State of Iowa, and Business assistance programs, news and road closings, and resources for finding shelters and local and county government agencies.

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Health & Safety

We hear a lot about tetanus shots. Is it safe to go in the water now? What do we need to take as precautions when we start this clean up?

Newton: It is safe to go into the water. What people need to do is go back and check their vaccination records. They need to talk with their primary healthcare provider, find out what the status of their vaccination is. If they haven't had a tetanus booster within the last five years they need to consult with their healthcare provider to see whether or not they need to get a booster. Certainly if they have sustained a puncture wound or a scratch or an abrasion on their legs and spent some time in the flood water it would probably be a good idea to get a tetanus shot.

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When people can go in the water, should they have gloves on? Should they have rubber boots? Should they be covered?

Newton: Certainly we want to make sure that they have adequate coverage while they are out there and wearing proper clothing. We've heard some reports of people wandering through the flood water in flip-flops. We want to make sure that they have good, sturdy tennis shoes or a good, sturdy boot on when they are out in those flood waters. There's a lot of misconception that tetanus and hepatitis, if you go into flood waters you're automatically going to get those. That's not the case. But people do need to be precautionary and wear proper clothing while out working in it and wearing gloves too.

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What type of diseases do we need to worry about during clean-up? We talked about tetanus and hepatitis; are there other things that we need to be on the lookout for?

Newton: Well, probably our biggest concern right now is that people have safe water to drink and safe food to consume. And what they need to do is if they are on a public water system, if they are on a city water system they need to take guidance from their local utilities company. We've had a number of systems that have been shut down for a period of time or have been closed down for an extended period of time. They need to take guidance from those local officials as to whether that public water system is safe to drink. If they're on a private water well they need to make sure that if that well was inundated by flood water, if they had it up over the cap, if they had it around the casing that they get in touch with their local health department and/or a private well contractor to come out and do shock chlorination of that system, kill off any bacterial contamination that may have occurred. And then with the health department or the private water well contractor can take a water sample and they shouldn't use that as a drinking water source until they do get confirmation that it's safe to drink.

Yeager: There are areas that have been hit with water that may have not gone over their wells before, somebody new on the farm. Should a person who lives in an area -- should they know who their contractor is or who should they call if they're not exactly certain where they're going to do some of this?

Newton: Most typically they're going to know who their contractor is because they will have come out and work on their pump or something like that. And their local health department they just have to look in the yellow pages. For anyone that is out there working in flood water we surely want to make sure that they're following proper sanitation and washing their hands thoroughly, making sure they wipe down their skin after spending some time in flood water and that will minimize the risk of disease.

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What about the mosquito population, concerns about West Nile virus? What type of things do we need to be on the look out for that we can do as homeowners individually?

Newton: Well, we would encourage any homeowner to go out and survey their backyard or front yard, see if you have any standing pools of water available for mosquitoes to breed with and you'll probably see the little nymphs swimming around in there right now if you take a close look at it. We would encourage anyone that had old tires or five gallon pails out behind their house that had standing water in it, dump that out. If you have a bird bath, dump it out on a daily basis. If you're going out early in the morning or you're going out later on in the evening make sure you're wearing a bug spray with DEET. That's going to protect you as much as anything. Wear long sleeves and long pants so that you're protected from those mosquito bites. We'll work closely with the other state agencies that have some involvement with state parks and the Department of Agriculture has some involvement with pesticide application, communities contact all three of our agencies and seek input as to what is the best way to control mosquitoes. Many of them have their own mosquito control program, we have some guidance we can provide to them as well. But for that individual homeowner the best thing they can do is go out and survey their yard, make sure they have no standing water because the mosquitoes that bite them in their backyard are probably ones that came from their backyard.

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What should homeowners do with used sandbags that may be contaminated?

Newton: I think that what you'd probably find is it would be perfectly safe to cut that and put that in your own yard. I think it would be perfectly safe. There's probably some bacterial contamination but no real difference than what you have in the soil in your ground in your front yard or backyard. So, I think it would be safe.

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What is the best or proper cleaning solution for basements? Is it bleach and water?

Newton: If you go out on our Web site you're going to find information on that, the Iowa Department of Public Health, I would imagine ISU extension has some information on that as well. But if you use a bleach and water solution that's going to be enough to kill off any mold spores that are there and really prevent it from getting set in your drywall.

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One more question about the mold that can start to build in some of those areas that are being cleaned up. What are the dangers?

Newton: Mold is probably going to be within the next two to three weeks. It doesn't take very long for mold to grow. Right now you're probably not seeing any more mold in those buildings than there was in the first place. It takes heat and it takes moisture to create mold and an environment in which it can grow. It isn't going to grow under the water that's in there right now. But once that water recedes and it gets a chance those spores will set into the drywall. People need to work pretty quickly and make sure they're using a bleach water solution to clean down areas. That will kill off the mold. Taking precautions if they had drywall that was very seriously flooded it's probably a good idea to lop it off and just replace it.

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Health & Safety Resources

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How are we doing on our roads across the state?

Mahoney: We've got quite a variation of problems ranging from being able to be re-opened without any problems or any repair to a mile of complete road embankment and pavement replacement.

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What is a priority? Are main roads going to have to get opened first? What do you fix first?

Mahoney: So far the priority has been as waters have receded we've addressed the damage and have taken on repair responsibilities either with our field maintenance staff or we've gone as far as hiring contractors to supplement that or take on that themselves.

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Will new road construction be put on hold now? Or if that money is already down the pipeline, where does it go from there?

Mahoney: I don't believe that new construction will be on hold at all. Later in the year there may be some trading on some projects and that sort of thing but we have a small contingency fund and the emergency relief funds that come from the Federal Highway Administration where the work is accomplished within the first 180 days of the event whether it's emergency repairs or permanent repairs that are toward the final reopening of the road, the initial reopening I'll say. That is 100% federal reimbursement so I'm confident that our construction program will stay as we had originally planned although the weather, just like the agricultural community, has been severely affected by that.

Yeager: You've kept up repairs on I-35 north of Highway 20. That has been a project that's been going on so that didn't stop. I-80 was shut for a weekend and that was around a new bridge construction, that bridge construction will go forward?

Mahoney: Yes, it will.

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Is there a priority for transportation system repairs?

Mahoney: As the water receded we were able to take an assessment of what the damage was and what the capabilities were from our field maintenance sources and if we were able to open those roads with the equipment and staff that we had we went ahead and did that even as far as opening one lane at a time and that sort of thing for only daylight hours. Now that we're seeing a little bit more and we've inspected a lot, in fact not a lot, all these bridges that are since opened to identify that they are safe for traffic and now we know what we need to do in the way of hiring contractors. Some of these repairs that I spoke of earlier that are a mile long are going to take a redesign. We have to completely rebuild the road bed and probably have some drainage issues that we have to reconcile. And also we've got to find some dry material.

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Will the Iowa Department of Transportation adjust policy or planning on where roads will be placed or how they will be constructed? Will they look to avoid areas that have flooded in the past?

Mahoney: No, I don't see that happening. In this case we would rebuild the roads in their existing location.

Yeager: Would there be any that might be higher in some locations?

Mahoney: Very doubtful.

Yeager: And the reason for that?

Mahoney: Most of those areas that are severely damaged are the low point adjacent to the bridge. Had the road bed been higher we probably wouldn't have a bridge.

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Do you know about Highway 92 near Columbus Junction or Highway 61 to get to Muscatine, when any of those might go open?

Mahoney: I believe the water receded enough on Iowa 92 near Columbus Junction that we had an assessment today that looked like we would be able to open that, at least one lane, with our own field forces. 61, I think I mentioned, in the Wapello area in the river bottoms I think that will open up here in the next day or so.

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Do you have a total yet on how many miles of roads were closed?

Mahoney: Around 500 miles. About 125 miles of that sustained significant damage that needed some level of repair.

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I-80 is open now, right? There are roads that are closed, but Interstate-wise, everything is open, correct?

Mahoney: Everything is open on the Interstate, yes.

Yeager: And then we have U.S. Highways whether it's 52 or 30 or 20, where is the biggest conglomerate or concentration that these places are closed right now? Is it still southeast or are we in spots where the road has washed out?

Mahoney: Obviously still some remnants of closures in Iowa City/Coralville area and then as you work your way south down the Iowa and the Cedar basin toward Burlington. Almost every crossroad there is closed. U.S. 61 in the Wapello area is closed. We talked about that this morning. It looks like there are some things that we can handle in pretty short order after we get the bridges inspected so we hope to get that open in the next day or so.

Yeager: You talk about conference calls. What has the DOT been doing? Is it daily? In the height of the flood waters are you having hourly conference calls? What are those calls and what are you talking about?

Mahoney: We started internal conference calls when it was becoming readily apparent that the Interstate was in jeopardy, not to minimize any of the other closures, but the wall of water in the Cedar basin was such that it was apparent that Interstate 80 was going to be in jeopardy, in fact, there was six feet of water over the Interstate for the better part of four days and the road has been there almost 50 years and never had that kind of problem before.

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How much does the DOT get involved with disseminating sand? Are they the ones who provide sand for sandbags, or is that more of a county or city issue?

Mahoney: We get involved in all of that once the Governor declares a county as a disaster area then it allows state resources to be used for local efforts. And we've hauled sand, we've hauled sandbags, we've moved pumps, we've stationed commodities around in our different field maintenance garages in order to distribute it more economically, more efficiently.

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Where will used sandbags go?

Mahoney: I think each county has kind of their own plan on how they want to deal with the sandbags. I remember years ago in the flood prior to 1993 when I was over in eastern Iowa some of the sandbags were broken open and used for part of a roadway embankment so it went to some positive use. As far as re-pick up we're currently engaged from the Department of Transportation over in Cedar Rapids on a mission for debris pick up, we have almost 70 employees over there from all over the state and associated equipment working in Cedar Rapids in debris pick up and I would imagine sandbags would be part of that.

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Transportation Links & Resources

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Agricultural Concerns

For in-depth answers to specific agricultural issues, read the full program transcript from the Market to Market: Disaster Resources Call-In program recorded on June 20.

How many acres of cropland have been impacted by this flood?

Miller: Yes, our best estimates at this point will include a combination of acres that have not been able to be planted. As Lieutenant Governor Judge said, this has been going on for well over a month in terms of this rain impact. And so we're way behind in terms of some of the plantings. On corn we have probably 1.3 million acres that have either been delayed planted or directly affected by the flood, acres that were intended for soybeans approaching 2 million acres around the state. The good news is the last two days planters have been rolling again in some areas. So, again, the recovery is beginning. There are people as the weather has improved the last couple of days have begun to take steps to either re-plant fields or go back into fields and plant them for the first time.

Yeager: So, that is something that they're going to have to move forward with because our corn window is closed.

Miller: The window is closing very quickly. The optimal times have passed for both crops. We're into variant on corn and, in fact, in the northern tiers of counties in the state we're probably beyond corn planting. In the southern tier of counties we could probably plant corn with a reasonable expectation of that crop maturing before first frost up until mid next week. Soybean planting in the southern part of the state would probably proceed up through July 4th, maybe even to July 10th. But, again, the farther we go, the bigger the impact or risk there is of frost and other damages to the crop.

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What impact is this going to have on the agricultural economy -- not just in Iowa, but the entire country -- with this millions of acres of corn out of production?

Miller: The assessment that we've made so far really looks at how much crop have we lost to date. We haven't looked at or tried to speculate on how much might get replanted because we'll know that within a week or two and then we can make a further assessment. But as of today if you took that 1.3 million acres of corn that either isn't planted or flooded out that was probably a crop that would have been worth at today's prices about $1.5 billion dollars. On the soybean side assuming Iowa average yield is around 50 bushels per acre, 2 million acres, that's 100 million bushels of soybeans that would probably be lost from a harvest perspective unless we can get it replanted over the next couple of weeks. That's about also another $1.5 billion dollars. So, there's about $3 billion dollars of potential crop loss if we can't get that crop replanted. The better the weather is for the next ten days the more that farmers will be able to enter the fields ...

Yeager: Get into that window that you were talking about.

Miller: Enter that window of replant here and at least mitigate some of that. Now, there's likely to be some fields, a number of the rivers are still a flood stage and while the waters are receding we probably expect there will be maybe as much as a million acres in Iowa this year that just plain don't get planted. So, there will be fairly substantial losses out in the agricultural community compared to what probably would have been a record crop year and may well still be on a value basis a record crop given where prices are.

Yeager: Talking $7, $8, maybe even $9 a bushel for corn, that's unheard of. I don't think we'd ever think we'd have that conversation.

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What about the impact that we could see on ethanol production and food production?

Miller: Clearly the supply and demand situation for corn is very tight this year and it will be very tight on soybeans. So, the markets are reflecting that in terms of current prices. The market will ration this crop, that's one of the functions of a market is to determine those best uses and where it economically can be used to its highest value. We are hearing some ethanol plants particularly in Nebraska that have pulled their corn bids because corn supplies there are getting tight and they were looking maybe for Iowa corn to fill those supplies. I think a number of places are reevaluating how they would run. Clearly the livestock industry of this state is facing massive cost increases from feed purchases compared to what they had expected even just a couple of weeks ago. So, there's impacts being spread very much across this. In the short run consumers probably won't see much price impact because the very short run livestock producers in response to high prices are likely to do some liquidation of their livestock herds that actually probably puts more pork and more beef into the marketing system. Longer term, three months, six months, nine months down the road we're likely to see some increases in meat, particularly meat and dairy product, ag products, those that use feed in the grocery store when we look farther down. If you're seeing increases in products, grocery store products right now it's probably much more related to energy prices and the impacts there than it is to a flood impact.

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When it comes to dredging lakes, rivers and streams: Is the reason that Coralville couldn't hold because there's all this farmland in it? What would be the Farm Bureau take on environmental practices in terms of no-till farming, dykes, terraces or other practices?

Miller: I think it's very important for the viewers to realize that our agriculture, most of the conservation structures and water control structures out in our fields were designed for ten-year rain events. That is really the level that we designed fields for or the type of intensity of rain events that happen once every ten years. Many of our secondary structures at the stream level are designed for 25-to 50-year events. This was a 500-year rain event. It overwhelmed even the Army Corps of Engineer type of structures of Saylorville, etc. So, when you put a rain event that is magnitudes greater than what we experience none of the structures out there are designed to handle that.

So, the answer is yes, there clearly was some silting, there's movement of soil, those types of things but that's part of this type of a major disaster. This was not normalcy, this was the extreme of abnormal. And so I think farmers are doing a lot of work, the fact that we have a lot of conservation structures in place in Iowa, we have terraces, we have a fair amount of no-till, about half the land in Iowa is no-tilled every year, we have grassed waterways, all these type of events actually help mitigate the flow of that water until they become overwhelmed. And once water overwhelms an area whatever structure is underneath it becomes, it's not the confining feature.

The recovery in agriculture is going to be one of the longer term recoveries in terms of fields. We're likely, some of these rivers where we've had ten and twenty feet of water coursing with 30, 40-mile-an-hour currents has left debris, there are trees and a lot of debris left out in some of these fields. Some fields we're probably going to find feet of silting in these fields, there are just a lot of damage that this type of a rain event does. The farmers were not the problem here, the problems were simply acts of nature, acts of God.

Yeager: Do we think we might even see some new channels in some rivers, for instance: a farmer who thought he had a field there, now is part of the Iowa rivers?

Miller: Well, I can speak to that myself. I have a farm down in Lucas County and when White Breast Creek broke through about 60 feet of river bank I've got the start of a new channel cut through a field and it's cut about three and a half feet deep. Now, I've got to go in and start recovering that and figuring out how to rebuild that because that's not where we want that channel to be. But the force of water is just tremendous. Water can move an awful lot of material as we found, as we tried to build dykes and other things to control it.

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Agricultural Disaster Resources

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Emotional Healing After a Crisis

When images of this disaster are repeated over and over again in the newspaper, on the Internet and on television, is that a concern for those that are having to deal with this tragedy?

Hyatt: I think it's important that people monitor how often they are watching the newscasts especially if there are children involved, for parents to make sure that they let the children know that on television events are replayed, they're not happening live at that time, that's a real concern. I think that people also need to make sure that they keep in perspective what's happening with them, that it is an event that is over and that there is a process to that, that is recovery and it's hard to do when you see images everywhere and it keeps being compared to other events. And this is a unique event and I think we all need to treat it as such.

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When we were on the ground in Parkersburg, talking with people, one of the mental health counselors told us that they just need to tell their story. This flooding is across so many different counties across the state. How does everybody get their story out? Is that the first thing that they need to do?

Hyatt: I think right now people are very busy and while they may be telling their story while they're taking care of business of cleaning out their homes and that part of that will come later. A lot of people are still in the shock mode, they're still trying to decide what their financial situations are. I think we'll see in a couple of weeks people will take the time to be able to really know what the story is to tell. And that just comes with recovery and time.

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When we hear the term post traumatic stress we think of soldiers coming home from war, the families impacted. Are we in a situation where we could see post traumatic stress?

Hyatt: There's always potential for that. Already we're hearing stories from people who experienced trauma. In the '70s, in the '80s people, you notice when the tornado first hit, when floods first started most all of the media used the connection back to the floods of 1993. People were hearing comparisons and I think when that happens people do go back into their databanks and maybe they have unresolved issues over some of the fears or the floods from prior events and then it becomes real. Certainly we're hearing through the community health centers that people have started calling when it's raining because they're afraid that the rain is meaning that their town is going to flood or their children are concerned about that and I think that's where we really have to help people normalize what is happening, put a timeframe to the event to try to reduce some of the risk of post traumatic stress. But it is a very real concern and certainly mental health professionals are looking for signs and symptoms of that and if people are having trouble and they're feeling that they're not able to sleep, that they're not being able to concentrate because they're having a lot of fear or anxiety over flooding or if a tornado is going to come then they should seek professional help or talk to a confidant and make sure that they really air those feelings and get some input. It's good to get a little, a meter to what people are feeling.

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People are getting frustrated right now. How can people not suppress that anger but deal with some of these issues without a build-up of things that might be festering?

Hyatt: I think one of the things that is very helpful in situations where people are becoming anxious and they're getting angry if they can't get through a road that's closed is for the personnel that is working the disaster to also remain very calm and to treat the individuals with respect that are going through anxious moments. I think that is very important.

People also need to remember that everybody is experiencing stress and you don't have to be a person who lost their home or their car or their job to be feeling anxious. A lot of people in Iowa know people, they have relatives, it's hard to find someone who isn't talking about it or has a personal experience. But if you're feeling anxious and you're feeling like you're tensing up and you're handing things in ways that are not productive or how you wouldn't take a look at what you're doing.

Are you getting enough sleep? Are you taking care of yourself? Eating the appropriate foods? Are you taking your medication? A lot of people lost their medication in the floods and had difficulty getting those renewed right away. Some of those affect mood disorders. Are you diabetic? Are you taking your insulin? Self-care is very important in times where people are stretched in many different directions. So, I would encourage taking a look at self-care, if you're feeling anxious and not being able to control that make sure you get appropriate help in your community.

If you don't know where to go for help, you can call the Iowa Concern Hotline, again, you can call 211-HOTLINE, ask the question where can I go to get some appropriate help and follow up on that. But I think even if you come across someone that is being anxious towards you it's very important not to enter into that and just to remain calm and treat that person with respect.

And if the person has a mental illness, you know, they've also been through the disaster and you still need to treat that person with the same respect and understanding, give them the same information and be calm. I think that would take care of a lot of that.

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Resources for Emotional Healing After a Crisis

  • Iowa Concern Hotline 24-hour hotline for emotional and financial support is 1-800-447-1985. Web site has tips and information about a variety of disaster-related concerns.
  • The State of Iowa 2008 Flood Resource Center links to many flood-related services, including donation and volunteer links, links to FEMA, State of Iowa, and Business assistance programs, news and road closings, and resources for finding shelters and local and county government agencies.

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Volunteering / How to Help

Is there still a need for volunteers in certain areas? What are those needs that volunteers are needed for?

Judge: Well, of course, the sandbag need is past us now and I do want to thank people all over the state who stepped out of their lives and went to assist their neighbors in sandbagging and that happened all the way from the Minnesota border down to the Missouri and Illinois borders in southern Iowa. We really thank everybody for everything they have done. I am not sure what the future will bring. There, of course, is a lot of debris removal going on, people are working hard and I would suggest that if you are still interested in volunteering that you call the Iowa Concern Hotline number and let them know. That is 1-800-447-1985. And they can take your name and let you know if there is a need.

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Volunteer Resources

  • The State of Iowa 2008 Flood Resource Center links to many flood-related services, including donation and volunteer links, links to FEMA, State of Iowa, and Business assistance programs, news and road closings, and resources for finding shelters and local and county government agencies.

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