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Reynolds asks for expedited federal disaster declaration in response to historic flood

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On June 22, the Little Sioux River overtopped the levies in Spencer, forcing hundreds of residents from their homes. (Randy M. Cauthron)
Nick Lowrey

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has asked President Joe Biden for an expedited federal major disaster declaration following the unprecedented, ongoing flooding in the state’s northwest corner.

Reynolds made the announcement during a press conference held Sunday, June 23, at Camp Dodge near Johnston. She said she requested the declaration to help individuals in nine Iowa counties and governments in 22 counties secure federal recovery assistance more quickly. Reynolds said there is no damage estimate yet; however, an aerial tour of the area revealed widespread devastation.

“In almost every community impacted, the rivers crested several feet above record levels. We had 16 flood gauges that recorded historic levels,” Reynolds said. "We're still very early, but projected damage is staggering.”

Reynolds was joined at the conference by key members of her cabinet, including Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director John Benson, Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Bayens, and Health and Human Services Director Kelly Garcia. Each cabinet member offered insight into the state’s response to the flooding.

State agencies began responding to the flooding early on June 22 — state troopers, national guardsmen and Department of Natural Resources conservation officers conducted at least 250 rescues. Meanwhile, state workers moved emergency supplies such as cots and water to designated disaster shelters. More than 1,000 Iowans were staying in emergency shelters by June 23, Reynolds said.

Benson said one of the biggest issues facing flooded communities is the availability of clean drinking water. Several water treatment plants and sewage treatment plants, such as Spencer's, were inundated by flood waters. Benson said state officials are moving appropriate equipment and supplies to communities in need. Reynolds said that businesses such as Hy-Vee, Fareway and Walmart have donated truckloads of water to the state, and the water is being distributed to communities in need. 

River levels in northwest Iowa crested on Sunday afternoon and began receding. Meanwhile, state and local emergency managers in the region were shifting their efforts from responding to the crisis to recovering from it.

Benson said the state is still working with local emergency managers and other officials to determine the best ways to receive food, clothing, and money donations to help with flood recovery.

“Typically, the best option available to you is to donate cash to those recovery funds. Showing up with a truckload of stuff and things makes the situation worse,” Benson said.

Benson also said Iowa’s disaster recovery website,, will be updated frequently with new information about how to donate money and supplies, how to volunteer to help, and when to apply for state and federal recovery assistance.

Reynolds said officials will remain engaged with impacted communities and will continue monitoring weather and river levels. The National Weather Service is predicting more rain will fall in Northwest Iowa on June 24 and June 25. An NWS official said the central and eastern portions of the state may see heavier rains by June 27 or June 28.

Though flood waters are receding in the northwest, rivers are still rising in the southwest, and expected rains could drive more flooding further to the east. Reynolds urged Iowans to follow evacuation orders and heed road closures for safety.

Benson said emergency managers are preparing eastern Iowa counties and those along the Missouri River for flooding. The Missouri is projected to reach “major flood” stage in the coming days as flood waters head downstream. Benson urged residents in vulnerable areas to closely monitor forecasts and heed evacuation orders.

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