City explores Federal funds for flood damages
$400,000 damage caused to City public works
More than 400 homes report damages
It is still unknown what, if any, Federal monies may become available for Cherokee County after it was declared a disaster area by Iowa Governor Chet Culver in the aftermath of last weekend's horrific flooding precipitated by 6-8 inches of rain over a few hours.
As of Thursday noon, more than 400 Cherokee residents had reported flood damages - mainly flooded basements - to City Hall.
In addition, City Administrator Don Eikmeier said there was more than $400,000 damage inflicted on City infrastructure and equipment due to the record flooding on the Little Sioux River and flash flooding of the river's tributaries throughout the Little Sioux basin.
Several FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) officials were in Cherokee all day Wednesday assessing damages and meeting with City, County, and emergency response personnel.
Eikmeier said the flooded basements were caused be either over-loaded storm sewers or backed-up sewer lines as the City's sewer system operated normally throughout, but was simply overwhelmed with the amount of rain water over such a short period of time.
Eikmeier was rousted from his weekend home in Omaha at 1:30 a.m. Sunday by a phone call from Street Superintendent Jim Agnitsch and Parks Superintendent Duane Mummert as word of the flooding and the torrential downpour spread. He was on the road at 2 a.m. headed back to Cherokee and encountered water over the road in many places the closer he got to Cherokee.
"You can't design a sewer system to handle 6-8 inches of heavy rain in a few hours," noted Eikmeier. "The system was simply overwhelmed.
"Our street and sewer crews have done yeoman work non-stop since 2 a.m. Sunday. Some police officers even volunteered their off-duty time to help out in any way they could. And our firemen were just superb throughout with their knowledge and organization in dealing with this terrible flood."
Eikmeier was first attracted to the Cherokee job by the community's amenities, including the renovated downtown area, Bacon Aquatics Center, Wellness Center, business climate, school system, and parks system.
After being here a while he said the resiliency of the people and how they cope and respond to hardship really impressed him.
"The citizens know what they're doing and they're doing it again," praised Eikmeier, as neighbor continued to help neighbor in the flood's aftermath. "This is a wonderful community of great people. They just roll up their sleeves and get to work when the time comes. I can't believe all the volunteers who just step up and pitch in. Like our City employees, they do yeoman work."
Eikmeier encouraged all residents affected by the flood to document their losses and repairs and to take photos as more documentation, as it is hoped new FEMA monies become a reality to help affected property owners pay for the damages.
"We don't know how that will turn out, but we need to document everything and send it in," added Eikmeier.
Residents who hurriedly contracted with private restoration companies should also document their damages and repairs.
"You're looking at $7000-$10,000 just for a new furnace and water heater, plus all other stored materials and equipment in basements, and you can go on from there," said Eikmeier.
The City Administrator also had high praise for Sanitary Services, which continued above and beyond the call picking up flood-damaged items from curbsides throughout the City, and hauling the heavy, water-laden items to the landfill.