A year ago, water from the West Fork of the Little Sioux River overtopped a levee and flooded the western Iowa town of Hornick. The town is still recovering, and waiting for future flood mitigation.
The Woodbury County town with a population of 220 was awarded nearly $2.1 million last year to build a protective barrier called a berm around the city to prevent future flooding. The berm will be built 3 feet above the town's 500-year flood elevation, which last year's flood came close to. Hornick Mayor Scott Mitchell said the town is still waiting to start the berm project, which will depend on when they get money from FEMA for road repairs.
“When we were designing the berm, we decided to reuse the dirt that was going to be coming out from underneath the roads for part of the dirt for the berm,” Mitchell said.
The dirt is coming from underneath roads in the city that flooding damaged last year. Cleanup efforts that included hauling heavy equipment in town further damaged and ruined some of the streets, Mitchell said.
“They’re really tore up,” Mitchell said. “They’ve got lots of potholes.”
Mitchell said more than half of the dirt from the road repairs will be the core dirt for the berm. The berm itself will only take two to three months to build once the town has the dirt.
Hornick leaders have been talking about building a berm since the 1996 flooding, but they couldn’t find the funding until $15 million was put into the Iowa Flood Recovery Fund last year. During a town hall meeting in late September after Hornick found out it was awarded funding, Mitchell said he was overjoyed. “You guys all don’t know how happy I am. You really don’t,” he said. “You really don’t.” Hornick would eventually like to put a walking trail on top of the berm.
The town has come a long way in recovery over the last year, but still has a long way to go, Mitchell said. Some people have repaired everything. Other are still working on their homes and trying to get things back to normal.
“Recovery-wise, I always thought we’d recover quick,” Mitchell said, “but I’m going to say it’s probably two to four years until we’re fully recovered. A lot of people are still working at repairing their basements and as they have the money they buy what they need to fix it.”
Drone video of Hornick on March 17, 2019 from the Woodbury County Sheriff's Office, posted by Woodbury County Emergency Management: