© 2023 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Evacuations Lifted Across Southwest Iowa, But Many Homes Are Inaccessible

Katie Peikes
IPR file
Flooding seen in Hamburg on April 9, 2019.

Many people who evacuated their southwest Iowa homes last month because of flooding are now allowed to return, but standing water is preventing some from getting back.
Evacuation orders have been lifted across Mills County, but a lot of standing is making some homes unreachable. Sheri Bowen, the county’s public health agency administrator and the spokeswoman for the flooding, says people will mainly go home to assess the damage.

“They may decide to wear their hip waders and go in and get their prized possessions that they weren’t able to take with them, but no one is expecting anyone to move back in at this point,” Bowen said.

The county did a small unofficial survey asking people whether they would return home. About half of the families that answered said they were unsure about their next steps while 40 percent said they would return and 10 percent said they would definitely leave.

“We’d really like to provide as many resources as possible and we’re hoping everyone will stay,” Bowen said. “I realize that’s probably not a realistic approach.”

More than 15,000 people live in Mills County. Bowen said if people do leave it will “be devastating for the community in the long run.”

South of Mills, in Fremont County, the mayor of Hamburg lifted the city’s partial evacuation order last week, allowing residents of almost 170 homes that had been evacuated to return. There is still standing water in the south end of town though, said Fremont County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Crecelius.

“That is where the water hit the worst and was the deepest, so I think that those folks are going to be looking for somewhere else to be living instead of moving back in there,” Crecelius said.

The city put up a berm around the south end of town to keep water from flowing in. A lot of the water in the city got pumped out, Crecelius said.

In an interview last week, Kim Ashlock, who lives just outside of Hamburg, near the levee, said she was able to get to her home by airboat to retrieve some of her belongings. The road to her home is gone.

“Even when it is fixed we’re going to have to probably build our own road to even get out there on a vehicle to be able to get our stuff – the little bit of it that we have left,” Ashlock said.

Ashlock said most of her family’s things were covered in mold and the floors of their home are under a layer of mud.

In unincorporated parts of Freemont County, about 250 families cannot go back yet. That includes the communities of Percival, Bartlett and McPaul.

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.