Government

Reynolds talks floods during Cedar Rapids stop

Governor declares public health disaster emergency in Iowa

Floodwaters last week surround corn sitting under a collapsed grain bin in this aerial photograph over the city of Thurman in western Iowa. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)
Floodwaters last week surround corn sitting under a collapsed grain bin in this aerial photograph over the city of Thurman in western Iowa. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)
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As communities in western Iowa continue to grapple with record flooding, Gov. Kim Reynolds visited Cedar Rapids on Thursday to talk with city and county officials about flood mitigation and recovery.

“There is a possibility that more flooding is on the way, especially on the western side of the state,” Reynolds said during a press conference Thursday afternoon at the Linn County Emergency Management Agency at Kirkwood Community College. “So we discussed strategies for taking proactive steps as we work through this next (period) while the snow melts on the Mississippi (River) and the spring and the rains that we know are coming.”

Reynolds applauded Cedar Rapids’ ongoing flood mitigation plans and backed innovative approaches to dealing with future severe weather, both on a personal level and at the municipal and state levels.

“It was really important for me to have the opportunity to talk to (Linn County EMA) because they’ve just done significant things since the 2008 floods, whether it’s mitigation or just processes that they’ve put in place,” she said. “And we saw the results of that when we had the 2016 flooding — how well prepared they were.”

Reynolds said it was a perfect storm of weather conditions — from heavy rains and a “bomb cyclone” to warm temperatures that thawed heavy snow onto still frozen ground — that caused severe flooding in western Iowa and other states along the Missouri River.

“As we move into the recovery stage, we need to be mindful about how we’re looking at this,” she said. “We need to be looking at it from a regional perspective. We need to looking at it differently, to be innovating on how we’re looking at really putting in place a system that (will last). …

“We want to make sure that we’re looking at this from a longterm perspective.”

Earlier Thursday, Reynolds declared a public health disaster emergency, allowing the Iowa Department of Public Health to mobilize public health response teams. The teams are made up of volunteers from health care facilities, local environmental agencies, the state and county medical examiner’s offices and the private sector.

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“Local resources and capabilities are quickly becoming overwhelmed,” Reynolds said in a statement. “Authorizing the mobilization of public health response teams will ease that burden as this emergency event continues.”

The public health department has provided a guide for staying safe — including tips about food and water — at idph.iowa.gov/flooding

Fifty-seven Iowa counties have state disaster declarations and 56 have federal disaster declaration, clearing the way for financial assistance.

In Eastern Iowa, the declarations will provide aid to Allamakee, Bremer, Butler, Fayette, Tama and Winneshiek counties.

Details on who is eligible and how to apply, as well as other Iowa flooding updates, are available at floods2019.iowa.gov.

l Comments: kat.russell@thegazette.com; 319-398-8238.

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