Bush Tours Midwest Flooding

June 19, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
President Bush is seeing a region reeling from an onslaught of water as the Mississippi River rises relentlessly sending flooding deeper into the heartland.With the painful lessons of Hurricane Katrina still in mind, President Bush on Thursday opened an inspection tour of Midwest flooding that has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes across six states.

Bush was visiting the Iowa cities of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City on his first tour of the Midwest since heavy rains sent rivers surging over their banks. Bush was in Europe when the severe weather hit last week, but he made a point to show his deep concern while overseas.

Cedar Rapids endured its worst flooding ever. The town was submerged by the Cedar River, which crested almost 20 feet above flood stage. Iowa City, a college town about 30 miles to the southeast, also was damaged by flooding.

FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison, accompanying Bush on Air Force One, praised the "great coordination" between federal, state and local leaders. Bush also was accompanied by two Democratic lawmakers from Iowa, Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Dave Loebsack.

Now that the water has receded in Cedar Rapids, residents are returning, with fear about what they'll find. Homes, cars, complete neighborhoods, all damaged or out-right destroyed? 25,000 people suddenly homeless.

For Nancy Deason's daughters, salvaging cherished family treasures, like mom's teapots, helps. "Everything she's had is here... Her pictures. We did save some teapots she collected over the years, little spoons...stuff like that," said Cedar Rapids resident Kristy Howard.

Downtown, the streets are now dry, but the police department, public works, city hall and main fire house are all ruined.

The floodwaters that soaked Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, continue to move downstream, those in small towns, like Clarksville, Missouri are working feverishly to save their downtown.

In Quincy, Illinois, volunteers filled sandbags at break-neck speed, hoping to keep the river back.

So far, 20 levees up and down the Mississippi have already overflowed and 30 more are at risk. Loss estimates, for Iowa alone, will top $1.5 billion dollars; a number that's likely to increase as river levels climb in Missouri and Illinois.

As residents come and go from what remains of their homes, everyone is being advised to get a tetanus shot to try to protect against what could be the next disaster to hit this area: disease.


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