Federal disaster aid has been approved for Story County and 29 other Iowa counties after several months of severe weather conditions.
President Donald Trump this week signed a proclamation declaring a major disaster in counties in north and central Iowa that suffered severe storms, tornadoes, flooding and extreme straight-line winds from June 6 to July 2 this year.
Torrential rains dumped as much as 6.5 inches over a handful of hours in mid-June, flooding several streets around Ames, including the Grand Avenue underpass, parts of East Lincoln Way and South Duff Avenue, entire county roads and several other streets. Brookside Park also suffered heavy flooding.
About a month later, Des Moines and surrounding metro areas were hit with as much as 7 inches of rain in a night, causing flash flooding that killed one person. The water drained into Saylorville Lake, which backed up the Des Moines River and nearly forced a portion of U.S. Highway 30 near Boone to close due to flooding concerns near the portion of the road in the river’s floodplain.
Keith Morgan, director of the Story County Emergency Management Agency, said the county estimated about $543,000 in damage from the flood, spread between washouts on county roads and trails, and damage to various bridges.
The Tedesco Learning Corridor, a planned park area bordering the Iowa State Research Park, suffered damage to the stream bank restoration, while a bridge in McCarthy Park in Ames was completely washed out.
Floods also hit counties in northwest Iowa later that month, and one city, Rock Valley, ordered its residents to evacuate after a local river rose over its banks.
Under the disaster proclamation, local governments and certain types of nonprofits can apply for federal dollars on top of state support for debris cleanup, emergency protective measures and repairing or replacing public facilities with support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Morgan said leaders of affected towns and nonprofits will likely begin meeting with federal agents later this week to develop a recovery plan. FEMA generally covers up to 75 percent of the cost of rebuilding a public structure or area, he said, while the local government is asked to cover the rest.
Those funds can also be used to reimburse work already carried out by local officials.
“Those emergency repairs to roads, the process will be for getting reimbursement for work already being done,” he said.
He said it’s not clear how funding from the state plays into what aid the county could get.
FEMA is still determining if the damage done to private properties warrants releasing funds to residents. Morgan said the county’s count of private damages aren’t enough to qualify immediately for individual aid, but he guessed that Story County residents could get access to the funding if FEMA approves individual assistance to Polk County.
Morgan said there is a pot of almost $3.2 million in competitive cost-share funding for governments in the state for hazard mitigation projects, which he is planning to bid for. He said the county is revising its hazard mitigation plan and could use some of those dollars to fund ways to avoid damage from floods or other natural disasters.
“We don’t want to keep doing things the same way if it results in damages,” he said. “… They look an awful lot on that cost benefit. For every dollar invested, how much do you think we’ll have in savings if an event would happen again?”