Recovery Capability Lost in Iowa

The Iowa state seal.

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It is both sad and painful to see an existing, effective organization killed, apparently for budgetary reasons. Rebuild Iowa Office closes despite flooding and disaster concerns in Iowa. June 23.

After three years of planning and disaster recovery efforts following the 2008 flooding and tornado damage, the Rebuild Iowa Office, created under an executive order signed by former Gov. Chet Culver, finds itself forced to close up shop due to budget constraints and program deadlines today.  More than 40,000 Iowans were affected by natural disasters in Iowa in 2008 which resulted in a presidential disaster declaration for 85 of 99 counties in Iowa.  Despite ongoing flooding along the Missouri River which has overrun its banks and caused evacuations and tornado outbreaks across the state, today marks the final day of the office which has helped secure nearly $4.3 billion in federal and state money to help Iowans recover from natural disasters.

2008 was a year that saw many Iowans affected by outbreaks of tornadoes of historic size and damage and severe weather that brought flooding, mainly along the Des Moines, Raccoon, Missouri and Mississippi rivers.  The Birdland neighborhood, flooded in the historic 1993 floods, were once again inundated with water that flowed over levees meant to protect them.  Applington-Parkersburg saw a tornado that wiped out half of the town and damaged the high school.  The Rebuild Iowa Office began working to help secure mostly federal money to assist in clean up and recovery for many communities across the state.  The Iowa Legislature formalized the office’s position in 2009, establishing a date in June 2011 for the office to close.

Despite outbreaks of tornadoes this year and severe flooding along the Missouri River that has reached levels that are expected to exceed those of the devastating 1993 floods, the work that was done by the office will be turned over to the Iowa Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and other state agencies.  Those involved in leading Iowa forward since the 2008 disasters held a conference call in December 2010 with the advisory commission members to discuss moving ahead.  Their plan outlined staffing and funding suggestions for setting priorities which were then delivered to the Iowa Legislature and Governor Terry Branstad.

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