Government

Gov. Reynolds tours western Iowa town hit hard by flooding

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds surveys flood damage in the Woodbury County town of Hornick on Sunday, March 17, 2019. Reynolds had toured Missouri Valley, Iowa, also impacted by floods, earlier in the afternoon. (Earl Horlyk, Sioux City Journal)
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds surveys flood damage in the Woodbury County town of Hornick on Sunday, March 17, 2019. Reynolds had toured Missouri Valley, Iowa, also impacted by floods, earlier in the afternoon. (Earl Horlyk, Sioux City Journal)
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HORNICK — During a tour of Hornick on Sunday, Gov. Kim Reynolds saw much of the flooded Woodbury County town, including “waterfront property” owned by Dale Ronfeldt.

The water — several feet deep past his outdoor deck — came courtesy of a breached levee Thursday on the West Fork of the Big Sioux River. Almost all residents of the town of 250 were evacuated as a result.

“We thought our basement would be dry,” said Ronfeldt, a member of the Hornick City Council as well as the town’s fire and rescue department. “Now we have 4 feet of water in it.”

Residents were allowed to survey damage and pick up personal items beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday. However, they were required to leave again by 8 p.m., by order of Mayor Scott Mitchell.

“We’re still waiting to see what happens,” he said, after being asked when residents may be allowed to return home permanently.

Reynolds has issued disaster proclamations for 36 Iowa counties, including Woodbury. That means residents of Hornick can get financial assistance for losses.

Yet Ronfeldt, a Hornick native, said he expected some loss of population because of the community’s aging demographic.

That was a sentiment shared by Mitchell, who also is a Hornick native.

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“We’ve been through floods before,” he said. “We’re a family, and the community has always pulled together.”

Reynolds, who also toured the similarly flooded Missouri Valley, Iowa, earlier Sunday, was fast to compliment the efforts of Hornick’s first responders, as well as Woodbury County Emergency Management, for proactive planning.

“They were able to keep residents informed,” she said during a news conference Sunday afternoon at Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City. “They had a plan in place.”

When all the damage is assessed statewide, Reynolds said, this flooding may be more devastating than when the Missouri River flooded in the summer of 2011.

“During that flood, the Platte (River in Nebraska) wasn’t impacted,” she said. “This time, it was.”

Reynolds said it may take months before everything gets back to normal. She is set to give a flood update Monday and may do another tour of the area early in the week.

The Missouri River in Sioux City crested at 29.7 feet around 4 a.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. The water levels are likely to go down in the coming days.

It was a major concern for Jeff Dooley, manager of the Dakota Dunes Community Improvement District, who said he and other volunteers spent their Saturday night monitoring water levels on the Missouri.

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“We began noticing growth above the projected trends,” he said. “With a very small margin for error in the Spyglass area, we decided to go door-to-door at around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning.”

About 240 households were asked to evacuate their Dakota Dunes homes, just across the Iowa border in South Dakota. They were able to return later in the day.

Unfortunately, Hornick residents aren’t quite so lucky.

Despite that, Ronfeldt was encouraged by offers of help from community members.

“People have been incredibly generous,” he said.

Mitchell already is looking toward the future.

“Our volunteer firefighter association is hosting a pancake breakfast on March 30,” he said. “I encourage everyone to stop by to see how Hornick is doing.”

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