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Public Statements

Expressing Sympathy for Midwestern Flood Victims

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

EXPRESSING SYMPATHY FOR MIDWESTERN FLOOD VICTIMS -- (House of Representatives - October 02, 2007)


Mr. KIND. Mr. Speaker, I am honored to join Mr. Walz here today to offer this resolution expressing our concern and support to the victims of the flooding that ravaged our congressional districts and so many other States during those fateful days in August, but also to take a moment to express our eternal gratitude and thanks to the countless numbers of official agencies, to private organizations, to individuals who rose to the call of many people in great need during this time.

I personally saw Mr. Walz and the action that he immediately took when I visited southeastern Minnesota along with Senator Klobuchar from Minnesota to see some of the damage and get together with many of the first responders who were working around the clock to come to the aid of so many businesses and families and individuals affected by the flooding.

The rains started on August 18, and it seemed as if they were never going to stop. It was literally a torrential downpour; in some areas, from 12 to 20 inches in just a very short period of time. It's amazing to personally witness the severe devastation that an intense amount of rain can accomplish in a very short period of time.

Fortunately for Mr. Walz and myself, we represent two very beautiful congressional districts, but part of that beauty is the fact that we have a lot of hills and valleys and coulees that act like a funnel effect when you have the so-called ``1,000-year rain'' take place within a 24-hour period. That is exactly what happened; the rain came, the water backed up and started devastating community after community.

Unfortunately, at the end of the rain, there were 14 people who lost their lives. Fortunately for myself, there were none in my congressional district, but we did have some loss of life in Mr. Walz's district. There were also three electrocutions associated with the rain and the flooding that occurred in Madison.

Short of loss of life or physical injury, there is nothing more devastating than having your personal belongings washed away, whether it was in your home or in your businesses or on your farm.

I was down in one of my communities in the southern part of my congressional district, Gays Mills, shortly after the flooding, and they described to me horrific conditions where the rain came so quickly that within a matter of an hour there was five feet of water standing on the main street in their downtown area. I was talking to two teenage girls who, that evening, literally left their homes only to see the rising water and the swift current coming through the main street; and they jumped into a tree in order to get out of the way, it was coming so quickly, only to be rescued by a volunteer fire department personnel in a boat that took them to high land. You heard countless stories of this.

I guess it's times like this during great personal tragedy when you also witness the greatness of humanity and the response that occurred, from the various agencies at the Federal, State and local level that immediately geared up and started rushing in help and supplies, to the private organizations and businesses, to the Salvation Army, Red Cross, Catholic charities that were on the ground with their staff and their volunteers to provide assistance, to also FEMA.

One of the fortunate aspects at the time of this tragedy was Hurricane Dean didn't hit landfall in the United States, so FEMA, in preparation for Hurricane Dean, had a lot of supplies, they had a lot of personnel ramped up in the southern part of our country anticipating the worst of the hurricane. When it didn't arrive, they were able to redeploy a lot of their personnel and resources up to our area to provide assistance immediately.

I also want to take a moment to thank Director David Paulison of FEMA, who personally came on an inspection tour shortly after the flooding to see the devastation himself, and his office out of the Chicago regional office who were there very quickly.

With the help of Representative Walz and our respective Senators, as well as Governor Jim Doyle of WI, we were able to get quick State declarations, to be followed by a Natural Disaster Declaration in order to provide much-needed relief to the victims of the flooding. There's still a lot of work that needs to be done. There's still a lot of assistance that is going to have to occur in the community and in our respective States to try to make people whole.

On a lighter, happier note, I was fortunate to be home on Sunday to visit Gays Mills during their annual apple festival celebration and parade. This was a little more than a month after the floodwaters that were 5 feet deep in their town, yet they strove to make sure that they were going to keep this celebration, try to keep that continuity of tradition in their community. It was a wonderful day; the sun shown on us, the kids were having a great time, and that little sense of normalcy brought some smiles on a lot of faces in that community.

But if it wasn't for the quick reaction, again, of the agencies, but especially the family, the friends, the neighbors who responded to people in need, we could have suffered a fate much worse than what we did.

Again, I want to thank Representative Walz for the work that he did. I look forward to continuing the work that still needs to take place, because this isn't going to get fixed overnight. It's going to be a slow, laborious process. There's nothing worse than being denied access to a home or businesses. Just now, people are able to go in and have access for the first time.

Many of our farms, too, were devastated just before the crop was supposed to be harvested. Many livestock were lost in the flooding. Again, you work so hard and long all year long, and then just at the time you are going to go to market with the fruits of your labor, something like this takes place.

We also were fortunate that 20 earthen dams in Vernon County in my congressional district held up. It is a great tribute to the engineers and their foresight over 20 or 30 years ago that constructed these earthen dams that they held up, or the damage and devastation could have been much worse if they had given out and those floodwaters had released further down the valley.

So I want to thank all of those that were involved in providing much-needed and quick assistance to the individuals and to the communities that were affected by it. I again want to express my gratitude to FEMA and their quick reaction, Director Paulison and his team on the ground. But there is still more work to be done. It is good to see in a tragedy like this that there is that type of capability, both at the local and Federal and State level, in order to come to the aid of many citizens who needed it.

* [Begin Insert]

In particular, I would like to thank the many people who were involved in the recovery effort, only a few of which are named here. In Vernon County: Cindy Ackerman, Glenda Sullivan and the Emergency Management staff; Elizabeth Johnson and the Public Health staff; Pamela Eitland and the Human Services staff; Gene Cary and the Sheriffs Department staff; Mark Rahr and the Viroqua Police Department staff; Steve Skrede and the Viroqua Fire Department staff; Kelly Jacobs and the Land Conservation staff; Virgil Hanold and the Highway Department staff; Pat Peterson and the Aging Department staff; Bethel Butikk Food Pantry; Linda Nederlow, Public Information Officer; Thomas Spenner, County Board Chair; Cathy Lewison and the Farm Service Agency staff.

In Crawford County: Roger Martin and the Emergency Management staff; Laurel Hestetuene of Soldiers Grove; Larry McCarn and Maura Otis of Gays Mills; Jerry Moran and Sheriff's Department staff; Ron Leys, County Board Chair; Dennis Pelock and the Highway Department staff; Gary Knickerbacker; John Baird and the Farm Service Agency staff; Russ Hagen and the Land Conservation staff; Sara Ryan and the Human Services staff; Gloria Wall and the Public Health staff.

In La Crosse County: Keith Butler and the Emergency Management staff; Lynetta Kopp, Town of Shelby Chair; Dennis Osgood and the Highway Department staff; Randy Roeck and the Shelby Fire Department staff; Steve Doyle, County Board Chair; Ben Bosshart and the Farm Service Agency staff.

In Richland County: Darin Gudgeon and Emergency Management staff; Darrell Berglin and the Sheriff's Department staff; Randy Schoeneberg and the Highway Department staff; Ann Greenheck, County Board Chair; Jared Reuter and the Farm Service Agency staff; Marianne Stanek and the Public Health staff; Cathy Cooper and the Land Conservation staff; Dean Winchell and family; Bob Naegele and members of the Pine Valley Repeater Club ARES/RACES; Harriet Pedley, Ron Fruit and the WRCO radio station staff; Kim Clark and the Richland County Ambulance Service; Wes and Michelle Starkey; Richland Center Police Department; Rudy Nigel; Ken Anderson; Bob Bindl, Darrell Slama, Brian Jones, Dan Wilson, and the staff of the Richland County Fire Departments; Richland Center Public Works; DNR Warden Mike Nice and the DNR staff.

In Sauk County: Jeff Jelink and the Emergency Management staff; Marty Krueger, County Board Chair; Randy Stammen and the Sheriff's Department staff; Steve Muchow and the Highway Department staff; Cindy Bodendein and the Health Department staff; Joe Van Berkel and the Land Conservation staff; William Orth and the Human Services staff; Trish Vandre and the Commission on Aging staff; Curtis Norgard and the Farm Service Agency staff.

In Grant County: Steve Braun and Julie Loeffelholz, Emergency Management; Eugene Bartels, County Board Chair; John Wiederholt and the Farm Service Agency staff; Jeffery Kindrai and the Health Department staff.

In Iowa County: Ken Palzkill and the Emergency Management staff; Judy Lindholm and the Commission on Aging staff; June Meudt and the Health Department staff; Leo Klosterman and the Highway Department staff; Jim McCaulley and the Land Conservation staff; Darin Smith and the Social Services staff; Mark Masters, County Board Chair; Ned Johnson and the Farm Service Agency staff.

Further, I would like to thank: Ashley Furniture; AmeriCorps volunteers; Cheryl Hancock and the American Red Cross staff; Terri Leece and the Salvation Army staff; Deacon Richard Sage and the Catholic Charities staff; the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection; the Wisconsin State Patrol; the Wisconsin Department of Corrections; the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; the Wisconsin National Guard; the Natural Resources Conservation Service; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mr. Speaker, I wholeheartedly support this resolution and urge my colleagues to join me in voting for its passage.


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