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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

Midwest suffers extensive flooding and damage

Peggy Lowe Mar 27, 2019
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An aerial shot of Hamburg, Iowa, on March 22, days after mass flooding forced evacuations, closed Interstate 29 and racked up losses in the billions.
Peggy Lowe/KCUR

There’s been catastrophic flooding across the Midwest, thanks to a “bomb cyclone” weather event that hit mid-month. 

Locals are trying to assess the damage. Farmer Dan Athen recently flew over some of the destruction in a four-seat Cessna 182, taking off from a tiny runway outside Tarkio, Missouri.

Athen has been busy flying people over the area in recent days. Some people want to see the damage. Others have enlisted Athen to transport them from town to town — since driving is impossible on submerged roads. “The state’s going to have a lot of money wrapped up in just getting roads repaired,” Athen said. “That’s the first thing that’s going to have to happen before anybody can get in there.” The land he’s flying over looks like huge, muddy lake.

Dan Athen, a farmer who lives near Rock Port, Missouri, flies his Cessna 182 over the flooded area at the corner of four states, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. 

Lots of farmers won’t plant this year, since the water isn’t expected to recede for months. Many lost the grain they’ve been storing from last year’s harvest, a glut of corn and soybeans created by international trade issues. All along Athen’s flight route, steel grain bins are slumped over, their tops popped off and yellow corn spilling into the water.

Blake Hurst, a farmer near Tarkio, explained what’s happening with the bins. “A kind of a slow-motion explosion,” he said. “As the grain swells up, the bins collapse. So all kinds of farmers up and down the river are looking at a two-year loss of income.”

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