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After Flooding, People In Hornick Return To A Different Normal

People in several western Iowa communities are still waiting for waters to recede so they can go back to their homes, after the swollen Missouri River and its tributaries caused widespread, major flooding this month. 

In other parts of the region, people are already back, and they’re beginning the long process of assessing the damages and cleaning up their houses. The 200-or so people who live in Hornick in Woodbury County, have been back in their community for over a week.

When Fred and Pam Baker first approached their flooded home, Fred was taken back to the time he served in the Gulf War. He says the street looked like a war zone.

“Just everything was just total destruction. That wasn’t our street. You know?” Fred Baker said.

“It wasn’t,” Pam Baker added.

Their home’s main floor was intact. But the basement was filled with more than 7 feet of water.

“No one understands the power of water until you really see it,” Fred said. “When you see an upright freezer that weighs 800 pounds flipped upside down, that’s powerful. Water has power of its own.”

Fred and Pam got the water pumped out. They’re now waiting for their plumbing, and heating and cooling system to be fixed. They’re getting their basement treated for mold.

They’ve been staying with family in Sioux City, and Pam says they miss being in their own home.

“I mean, we love our daughter and grandchildren to death, but at times it can get a little crowded in a home with seven people,” Pam said.

“Everybody has their own schedules, their own thing,” Fred said, “but yet, you kind of cross each other at the same time.”

They hope to get back home in about two weeks. For their next-door neighbors, Chuck and Paula Rose, that wait could be much, much longer. 

"It wasn't a very pleasant day. Probably one of the worst days of our life." -Chuck Rose, on seeing the damage that flooding did to his home.

When the Roses came home last week, all they saw was mud. Thick mud covered their family room, their dresser drawers, even Chuck’s tools.

“It wasn’t a very pleasant day,” Chuck Rose said. “Probably one of the worst days of our life.”

“We hugged and cried for how many ... a long time,” Paula Rose said. “Just when we opened the door, it was just like, ‘oh no, it’s gone’ …"

“I can’t say anymore,” Paula said, choking up. 

They stayed with family about 5 miles north of Hornick, for a little while. Chuck says they’ve lost so much: classic cars, mowers, tools and the recent renovations they’ve made to their home.

“You don’t know what to do every morning,” Chuck said. “You just come down every day and walk around and pick up a few things and clean it up ... kind of heartbreaking.”

“Yeah, a lot. Heartbreaking,” Paula added. 

People have spent the last few days cleaning up and reporting to the city what they need: The appliances they’ll have to replace, how many rooms might need drywall repaired and if they plan to continue living in their home. 

"I wouldn't wish it on anybody in their life." -Hornick Mayor Scott Mitchell, on dealing with flooding in the city.

Mayor Scott Mitchell says he gets it if some people decide to leave. Everyone is dealing with a new normal. But it still stings.

“It’s going to break my heart if people leave,” Mitchell said. “Because we did everything we could to try to save this town, and I still honestly believe that today.”

And Mitchell says he’s already thinking about what can be done better to protect the city from future flooding. He says he never wants to go through this again.

“I don’t, and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody in their life,” Mitchell said. “It’s very stressful and very hard on you. And it is pretty emotional, to the whole thing.”

As for Chuck and Paula Rose, they’re moving into their camper for a while and staying in a trailer park in the city that Chuck built. In about a month, they’ll make up their minds whether they can salvage their home.

Neither wants to leave town.

“I don’t want a big town, I like my little town,” Paula said. “You know, you go somewhere else and someone may wave at you, or not.”

She continued, “We all like to know each other in town and we can all look out for each other in town.”

Drone footage of flooding in Hornick, taken March 15 by Woodbury County Emergency Management Agency:


Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.