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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

Murky floodwaters are receding in Iowa's two biggest cities. The extent of the damage is just becoming clear. In Des Moines, officials actually broke open a levy to let water flow out of a flooded neighborhood. In Cedar Rapids, the river continues to retreat, giving many residents a chance to get their first look inside their damaged homes. NPR's David Schaper is in Cedar Rapids and has the story.

DAVID SCHAPER: I'm standing at a checkpoint on First Avenue near one of the most severely damaged sections of town. The city has set up a handful of checkpoints like this, leading into the flooded neighborhoods here in Cedar Rapids where residents wait for a National Guard escort to their homes if it's in a place where the water has fully retreated.

They'll be able to check out the damage but can only take out what they can carry on foot. Some of those coming out have been in tears. Dan Bowers was one of those waiting in a line stretching back half a block or so. He says when he evacuated Wednesday evening, he had no idea the flood would be this bad.

Mr. DAN BOWERS: I moved everything from the basement to the first floor. My house had never been flooded before, and so I thought that would save everything.

SCHAPER: But then he saw video on television of a boat going through deep water in his neighborhood. So Bowers thinks he may have lost everything.

Mr. BOWERS: All my furniture, all my pictures, personal belongings, clothes, appliances.

SCHAPER: Replacing those things, plus repairing flood damage or rebuilding, if necessary, won't be easy for Bowers.

Mr. BOWERS: Most of the damage is done in non-flood plain areas where there's no insurance.

Unidentified Woman: Flood insurance.

Mr. BOWERS: Yeah. I know I didn't have flood insurance.

SCHAPER: And there are likely thousands of others in the same situation in Cedar Rapids, promising to make the process of rebuilding the city much more difficult. Lifelong resident Bowers says it will probably be years before his city returns to normal.

David Schaper, NPR News in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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