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One Year After the Flood June 14, 2009

Posted by Wapello Warbler in Louisa County, Oakville.
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One year ago, today, large portions of Louisa County were under water. The levees had been over-topped and cut by the second “100 year” flood in 15 years. The people in and around Oakville fled their homes carrying as much as they could cram into their pickups. Within hours, five to ten feet of muddy water was swirling through the town and their homes.

The water was powerful enough that it tore one family’s home in half. The house is still there, near the big curve, waiting to be demolished. Across the highway is another house with a wall that’s been pushed in.

But Oakville refuses to die. Although some people will never go back, others are working hard at rebuilding. Yesterday, Oakville had a homecoming that included a parade and all of the other mandatory elements of a small town celebration–even fireworks.

If you drive from Wapello to Burlington along county 99 and stop in Oakville, you can see that an astonishing amount of work has been done, but that more remains.

The levee has been rebuilt, but not yet completed. The fields have been cleared and planted, but large piles of sand stand here and there, waiting for disposal.

Most obvious are the homes. Some are “done,” some are in progress, but a substantial number of condemned homes still need to be torn down. That will happen over the course of the summer as each home is knocked down, placed in a giant plastic bag, and carted to a land fill. (I think the reason for this curious procedure is that many of these homes are contaminated with asbestos and lead paint in addition to the mold and other contaminants remaining from the flood.)

The situation is a little different just east of Wapello. There the Corp of Engineer’s concluded that it wouldn’t be worthwhile to rebuild the levees to their pre-flood levels. Some of the land is going to revert to wetlands. The rest will be farmed occasionally. Those who are rebuilding are building higher–either on hillsides or on extended “basements.”

Let me close by saying thank you to all who have helped, from the emergency management teams that helped us deal with the disaster while it was still happening to the hundreds of volunteers from various church groups that have helped with mudding, gutting, and rebuilding. Even though Iowans tend to be self-sufficient, the residents of Louisa County could not have accomplished all they have without your help.

P.S. If you survived the flood and would like to share your story, I’d be happy to have you add it as a comment.



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