Midwest States Scramble for Flood Recovery Aid On Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison visited Ohio to assess the damage in that state, but throughout the Midwest, thousands of residents are trying to recover from the relentless storms.
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Midwest States Scramble for Flood Recovery Aid

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Midwest States Scramble for Flood Recovery Aid

Midwest States Scramble for Flood Recovery Aid

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

It's been another day of heavy thunderstorms in the Upper Midwest. For the past five days, the region has been hit with serious floods. Rivers have pushed pass their banks, swamping roadways, taking lives, and damaging hundreds of houses.

Today, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and FEMA Administrator David Paulison are in Ohio, they're assessing the damage in that state. And throughout the Midwest, thousands of people are trying to recover from the relentless storms.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY: In some parts of the Midwest, residents have been able to return to their homes to begin assessing the damage left behind by the pounding rains which began last weekend. One of the hardest hit areas was Northwestern Ohio. The Blanchard River, near the small town of Findlay, crested at near-record levels and poured through homes in some of the worse flooding in more than a century.

Governor Ted Strickland, appearing on CBS today, says it is a terrible situation for the state.

Governor TED STRICKLAND (Democrat, Ohio): We estimate at least a thousand people our out of their homes. In one county alone, there have been about 700 homes either seriously damaged or, in some cases, totally destroyed. So this is a major, major disaster for Ohio.

CORLEY: Strickland declared states of emergency for nine Ohio counties. It's believed that as many as 12 people may have died from the latest series of storms including two children and an adult who were electrocuted in Wisconsin when lightning struck a utility pole at a bus stop in Madison.

And the early sandbagging efforts and evacuations didn't stop floodwaters from ruining property in Wisconsin.

Troy Oldenburg(ph) lives in Shelby, just outside of La Crosse and says he woke up over the weekend to find his house surrounded by water.

Mr. TROY OLDENBURG (Resident, Shelby, Ohio): My foot laid down to go down the steps and I could see water about six inches from our ceiling joints. And, so I came out to the front kitchen window over the sink and look out there, my truck's parked at the driveway here, and there was four-foot water upside of the truck.

CORLEY: Oldenburg left his home and also rescued two elderly neighbors. Their daughter Vicky Kuame(ph) says there's nothing left for her parents, both in their 70s, to salvage. She and her family had come to retrieve any knickknacks they could.

Ms. VICKY KUAME (Resident, Shelby, Ohio): My dad didn't have any clothes. They were all in the basement, and the basement is filled to the top, so we had to go to Wal-Mart to buy him an outfit. Both their vehicles went. Can you imagine going from, you know, being - having a secure life to nothing?

CORLEY: Wisconsin's governor has applied for federal disaster aid for a number of counties. A number of other states - Iowa, the Dakotas, Illinois and Indiana - were hit with flooding, too. In Minnesota, a state still reeling from the Minneapolis bridge collapse, it was a different story. At least seven people died in the storms. And in Rushford, Minnesota, the city administrator, Windy Block, predicts the damage estimates will be immense.

Mr. WINDY BLOCK (City Administrator, Rushford, Minnesota): And I don't think the world knows yet how bad this is.

CORLEY: In Rushford, a town of about eighteen hundred, 400 homes were damaged, at least 140 totally destroyed along with a number of trailer homes and the town's grocery store.

Mr. BLOCK: Of course, our little town is paralyzed. People aren't productively making an income. Business owners aren't making a profit. You know, you start to think about it, it adds up in a hurry.

CORLEY: And many people still remain homeless. The road and the bridge near Nick and Tasha Carey's(ph) farmhouse in Houston, Minnesota is washed out. They've come back to the area with binoculars to check on their farm animals and to see what they can of their home.

Ms. TASHA CAREY (Resident, Houston, Minnesota): We got kids and we can't get to the house now because there's no road and we called our homeowners this morning and they will not give us a penny because it was flood. So we have nothing, you know, no - we just don't have anything.

Mr. NICK CAREY (Resident, Houston, Minnesota): We don't know where to turn.

Ms. CAREY: We don't - so that's why we're here.

Mr. CAREY: Yeah.

CORLEY: Emergency officials in most of the Midwestern states hit by this week's incessant storms say they are hoping that the worst is behind them, even though most forecast still call for rain.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

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