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Iowa Couple Still Farming 1 Year After Floods

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Iowa Couple Still Farming 1 Year After Floods

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Iowa Couple Still Farming 1 Year After Floods

Iowa Couple Still Farming 1 Year After Floods

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A year ago, Karen Schock's farm was mostly under water in southeastern Iowa; she could barely see the top of her windmill. Guy Raz checks back in with Schock, who, with her husband Bill, is still farming, bolstered by the support of their church community.

GUY RAZ, host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy RAZ. Just about a year ago, this was the view from Karen Schock's farmhouse in Southeastern Iowa.

Ms. KAREN SCHOCK: We can see that our farm is underwater. A windmill is about 20 feet high and just a few blades are sticking out.

RAZ: Karen Schock and her husband, Bill, raise pigs and farm 800 acres of seed corn and soybeans just west of the Mississippi River. When we talked to her last year, the house was safe, but flooding had swamped 80 percent of their land.

Today, as many nearby towns are marking the flood's one year anniversary, we called Karen to see how her farm and her community are doing one year on. She says it took about a month just to get one field dry enough to plant.

Ms. SCHOCK: The water had receded off of one of the farms to a point where Bill planted beans and...

RAZ: Billy's your husband, of course, right?

Ms. SCHOCK: Right. And we raised a decent crop off of that actually last year, so that was a wonderful thing. And then, this year, rains delayed our planting. But my cousin just went home yesterday and he came out and helped us finish planting our seed corn.

RAZ: Tell me something, when you saw so much of your land just covered in water a year ago now, could you ever imagine that you'd be using it again? I mean, did you think that that was the end?

Ms. SCHOCK: Well, as we looked out over the flood, I made the comment I can't wait to be a year down the road and know that everything is going to be okay. And we are okay.

RAZ: Karen, did you get any help from the government?

Ms. SCHOCK: We got a little. We got a - about $700 or so on a food card, and we got some unemployment benefits.

RAZ: So, most of the help that you received actually came from churches and folks in other communities?

Ms. SCHOCK: Right. Four of the women from church came out and took the wives in whose husbands were affected by the flood. I guess I should say that being the wife of a husband who lost his job in a sense is challenging because they feel that overwhelming need to provide for their family and it's out of their hands at that point. Just to know what to say, what not to say, is challenging, and you need prayers. So, these women came out and listened to us, and we did a Bible study. We just sat and talked, and it really, really meant a lot.

RAZ: I mean, is it fair to say that everything is back to normal now where you are? That in other words, there are very few permanent or lasting reminders of the flood?

Ms. SCHOCK: I would say no. It is not fair to say that. You can still drive down the road where the break in the levy occurred. And there's a farm on either side of that road that's sustained. A lot of filth damage. The river just carried a lot of debris and filth down, and you can see that they are still working on trying to get their farm farmable. So, it's still going to take some time to have things look normal, but it'll never be the same.

RAZ: Karen Schock is in her home in Mediapolis, Iowa. Karen, thank you very much.

Ms. SCHOCK: You're welcome.

RAZ: And you can find a photo gallery of last year's floods and their aftermath at our Web site, npr.org.

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Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1 Year After Record Flood

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1 Year After Record Flood

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On June 13, 2008, the Cedar River crested almost 20 feet above flood level. That was more than 11 feet higher than the previous record flood. Heavy winter snows and an exceptionally wet spring, capped by torrential thunderstorms, swelled the river as wide as the Mississippi. Ten square miles of Cedar Rapids was under water — including about 1,000 businesses and more than 5,000 homes.

"We had 8 foot of water in the building," said flower shop owner Al Pierson. He's 6-foot-3 and stretches up to show how high the water rose in his shop in the northwest section of the city. It is a mostly working-class neighborhood across the river from downtown. It's full of older houses, many of which are boarded up or hollowed out.

That community, and the adjacent Czech Village neighborhood to the south, were the hardest hit by the floodwaters.

"We lost everything," Pierson said. "Everything in here looked like a bomb went off."

Pierson says that includes the adjacent house his grandparents built, and the one next door that he grew up in. His grandparents started the shop 80 years ago. It suffered $1 million in damages. Pierson didn't have insurance.

"What went through my mind: "I'm done. I'm finished. I'm out of business," Pierson said.

He eventually decided to clean up, repair and try to reopen. He became frustrated trying to obtain government assistance, but with a loan from the local credit union, the flower shop was able to reopen last November.

What Pierson lacks is many of his neighbors and customers. Few displaced residents have been able to repair or rebuild their homes.

There is some home rebuilding under way. Sometimes it's just one or two homes on a block, and much of the work is being done by volunteers. The few residents who can afford it are renovating their homes themselves.

The majority of the homes damaged or destroyed were small. They were valued at $50,000 to $80,000 and were occupied by lower income homeowners or renters. Few had flood insurance.

"For one flood survivor who is trying to rebuild their house, they have to go through nine steps with the federal government in order to get payment," said Lu Barron, chairwoman of the Linn County Board of Supervisors. "That is very cumbersome, it's very discouraging, and it makes recovery so slow."

Those who don't want to rebuild — or can't — are waiting for possible government buyouts. Many residents have run out of emergency government aid. Hundreds remain in FEMA trailers, while others struggle to pay for both rental housing and the mortgage on a flood-damaged home.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shawn Donovan, who was in Cedar Rapids this week, promised that the Obama administration would work to streamline the bureaucratic process.

He also announced $500 million in new federal flood recovery funds for Iowa. Some of that money will go toward the long-awaited buyouts.

But local officials say much more federal funding is needed, and it may take 10 years or more for Cedar Rapids to fully recover.

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