Rainstorms Pummel Upper Midwest, Drowning Resources Iowa, Minnesota and other parts of the Midwest have been hit with record levels of rainfall recently. As water floods homes and businesses and threatens crops, local officials scramble to help.
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Rainstorms Pummel Upper Midwest, Drowning Resources

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Rainstorms Pummel Upper Midwest, Drowning Resources

Rainstorms Pummel Upper Midwest, Drowning Resources

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In St. Paul, Minnesota, the Mississippi River is expected to crest today, more than six feet above flood stage. Heavy rains over the past couple of weeks have other Midwestern rivers rising, flooding homes, swamping fields and washing out roads. In Chicago, a flash flood, Tuesday night, shut down an expressway for nearly eight hours. NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: The fans are humming 24/7 as Laura Westra tries to dry out her sobbing with basement in the small town of Rock Valley, Iowa.

LAURA WESTRA: A lot of this stuff came up through here. And so the office was just a mess with dirty water.

SCHAPER: Heavy and continuous rains last week swelled the nearby Rock River in the northwest corner of the state wider and deeper than anyone can remember.

WESTRA: We've lived here 45 years and this is the first time we had water in the basement.

SCHAPER: The rain and river water inundated Westra's neighborhood, flooding her home and many of her neighbors.

WESTRA: And then our son's car was in the shed. And there was four feet of water in the shed.

SCHAPER: Westra and her family had to throw away just about everything from her finished basement, including the water heater. But she says many of her neighbors closer to the river were flooded much worse. Officials in this town of 3,300 say it will take weeks to clean up and months to repair and rebuild damaged houses, businesses and infrastructure. And they're not alone. Statewide Iowa officials estimate flood damages topping $15 million.

GARY BROWN: We were already at saturation point and we were receiving heavy rain.

SCHAPER: About an hour south of Rock Valley in Sioux City, Iowa, the county's emergency services director, Gary Brown, says it's been difficult to recover.

BROWN: We need a little time to dry out here. And we need these storms, instead of parking over us, to keep moving.

SCHAPER: Brown says one storm last week dumped six inches of rain on Sioux City in just three hours.

BROWN: What we saw last week were weather systems that just literally got here and continued to develop and redevelop on top of themselves.

SCHAPER: These storm systems have been dumping massive amounts of rain on other parts of Iowa, Nebraska, the Dakotas and Minnesota, where Gov. Mark Dayton has declared a state of emergency in 35 counties.

GOVERNOR MARK DAYTON: It's very hard to see the pain and the suffering people going through - homeowners in Henderson whose houses of 26 years are destroyed by a mudslide and farmers whose entire crop is been destroyed by the flooding or by the hail.

SCHAPER: Many northern farmers are now in a bind because when their fields finally dry out it might be too late in the growing season to replant their crops. One agronomist estimates crop yields could drop 20 to 30 percent in Minnesota alone because of weather-related losses. And there will likely be crop losses in other states, too. Gov. Dayton toured flood damage in several communities across Minnesota, including Delano - about 30 miles west of Minneapolis, where the raging Crow River flooded downtown businesses, enclosed a main bridge through town. Delano City administrator Phil Kern told the governor that the flooding is draining the city's bank accounts.

PHIL KERN: For a community our size, we're expending a tremendous amount of resources, probably upwards of 10 percent of our annual budget just simply in the last five days, trying to deal with holding back these waters.

SCHAPER: But Kern and planners in other Midwestern communities are bracing for these kinds of severe storms becoming their new normal. This is the third major flood in Delano in five years. And forecasters predict this rainy weather pattern will likely continue into July across much of the upper Midwest. David Schaper, NPR News.


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