On Tuesday, April 16, eight Iowa Flood Center staff and students left home in the early pre-dawn hours to drive to Hamburg in the far southwest corner of the state to help with flood clean-up. The volunteers weren’t sure what to expect but were ready to work hard at whatever needed doing.
When they rolled into Hamburg, they connected with Bruce, their volunteer coordinator with the organization Go-Serv. Bruce is a Hamburg resident working five days a week to supervise the volunteers and help his neighbors recover from the devastating early spring flood. In the early morning hours of March 18, the “flashy” flood event brought some of the worst flooding this part of the state has ever seen. The water came up quickly and disappeared just as suddenly. Residents had to evacuate their homes in the middle of the night, some of them in boats. Neighbors rescued neighbors, some of them standing knee-deep in water in the town’s central park, waiting for help to arrive.
Bruce took the IFC team to a small complex of low-income senior citizen apartments and set them to work pulling out wet, moldy drywall and clearing ruined cupboards, bathroom fixtures, and more. Everything went out to the curb to add to the endless piles of furniture, appliances, dishes, and more.
“It was heartbreaking to see their possessions piled up at the curb like that,” says Breanna Shea, public relations coordinator for the IFC. “Antique furniture, pretty dishes, books, photos — all of it represents someone’s life. Imagine starting over at that stage of life! It made us realize in a whole new way how important the work of the Iowa Flood Center is.”
The IFC group was part of a small army of volunteers who have turned up in Hamburg and other flood-devastated Iowa communities. Judy Holliman of the Hamburg Kiwanis Club told the Des Moines Register that people in her community are working hard together to recover from the flood. “We’re a strong community,” she said. “I see that everywhere. Nebraska strong, Iowa strong, and Hamburg’s going to be strong, too.”
At the end of the day, the IFC team was exhausted, dirty, and proud to be “Iowa strong,” working together with the citizens of Hamburg to build a more flood-resilient Iowa.