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Fremont County Still Has At Least One Home Inundated With Water From Spring Flooding

Katie Peikes
IPR file
Some homes in unincorporated Fremont County in southwest Iowa that were inundated in March are still in floodwaters.

At least one home in southwest Iowa’s Fremont County is still sitting in high water nearly nine months after floodwaters from the Missouri River inundated parts of the county.  
The small unincorporated community of McPaul in northwest Fremont County only has about a dozen houses, said Fremont County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Crecelius. He said he can think of one home there that’s still sitting in 2 feet of water.

“It’s had water in it for nine months and it has been moved off of its foundation,” Crecelius said. “It’s unrepairable.” 

Five homes in the McPaul area are so badly damaged that they’re included in the county’s list of potential buyouts, Crecelius said. The county is waiting until home values are estimated before it chooses to start the process. Southwest Iowa Planning Council said it expects to hire contractors soon for appraisals, and it could take at least a month for contractors to finish their estimates. 

"It appears like we're heading for another disaster next spring because of all of this." -Fremont County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Crecelius

Nick Johnson, a spokesman for Mills County, said there are no homes that are still underwater in the unincorporated part of the county. Johnson told Iowa Public Radio last week that owners of 77 homes in the unincorporated area have expressed interest in a buyout. He also said people are concerned about flooding in spring 2020 as they’re still recovering from last spring’s flooding and this year has been a very wet year for Upper Missouri River Basin.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in its three-month outlook for precipitation, says the odds are in favor for above-normal precipitation during December through February for Iowa and the Upper Missouri River Basin.

Crecelius said he shares concerns about possible flooding next spring: Saturated soils, freezing temperatures, levees that have yet to be repaired and the predicted wetter-than-normal winter are all recipes for another disaster, he said.

“It appears like we’re heading for another disaster next spring because of all of this,” Crecelius said.

Crecelius said he’s been keeping people alert about the possibility of spring 2020 flooding, in his role as county emergency manager.

The Missouri River at Nebraska City, Neb., the gauge that Fremont County watches for flood warnings, has remained above flood stage for more than 260 days.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started reducing water releases from mainstem dams in the Upper Missouri River in late November. Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, South Dakota is expected to be releasing 54,000 cubic feet of water per second by Dec. 6. The Corps said in a recent news release it still needs to evacuate about 15 percent of its flood control storage over the next few weeks.

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.