HORNICK, Iowa -- Standing in front of a trailer carrying a vast assortment of cleaning supplies and a sign that proclaimed "#HornickStrong," Courtney Nelson grew emotional as she talked about the outpouring of generosity for her flood-inundated hometown.
"Everything you see here has been donated," she said as she stood in the middle of Hornick on Monday afternoon. "We have supplies from Salix, Sloan, Sergeant Bluff, Blencoe, everywhere."
Heavy rains, snow melt and a breached levee on the West Fork of the Little Sioux River forced all of Hornick's roughly 250 residents to evacuate on Thursday.
Residents and property owners were temporarily allowed back into town to survey damage on Sunday but had to leave by nightfall. Monday was the first full day for residents to begin the arduous task of clean-up.
"We had no idea what conditions our houses would be like when we returned," Nelson said. "My house ended up being dry. That wasn't the case with everyone."
Indeed, Nelson's mom, Deb Nelson, said her basement currently has four feet of water in it.
"We lost our furnace and hot water heater but the damage was limited to the basement and not the main floor," she said. "I consider myself lucky."
As Hornick residents returned home, flooding also eased in other parts of Siouxland. At Sioux City, the Missouri River fell to 26 feet at 6 p.m. Monday, after cresting at 29.7 feet early Sunday morning, just below minor flood stages. The rising river prompted Dakota Dunes officials to briefly evacuate 260 households, many of whom were woken up in the middle of the night Sunday.
Minor flooding also occurred along the riverfront in Sioux City and South Sioux City. Standing water on Saturday forced the closure of Hamilton Boulevard at the Interstate 29 underpass, as well as the north and southbound exit ramps for the interstate. The roads reopened to traffic Monday morning after the floodwaters retreated.
The flooding fears escalated after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased flows from the upstream Gavins Point Dam to levels not seen since the 2011 flooding, which forced the four-month-long evacuation of hundreds of residents in the Dunes, an upscale planned community with dozens of lots fronting the Missouri and the Big Sioux River. Releases at the dam near Yankton, South Dakota, were briefly raised as high as 100,000 cubic feet per second to preserve room in the adjacent Lewis and Clark Reservoir following heavy rains and snow melt and unanticipated runoff from uncontrolled tributaries.
Gavins Point releases were reduced to 38,000 cfs Monday evening and further were scheduled over the next two days, with the flow slowed to 20,000 cfs on Wednesday night. For the second time in the past week, the corps also stopped all flows at Fort Randall Dam, the next dam upstream from Gavins Point.
The increased Missouri River flows have contributed to more severe flooding downstream in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area and other parts of southwest Iowa and northwest Missouri. With scores of other rivers and streams leaving their banks, hundreds of people remained out of their homes in Nebraska, where floodwaters reached record levels at 17 locations.
Corps officials warned the reduced releases from the upstream dams might not last long, noting the National Weather Service forecasts high flows on the Big Sioux, Vermillion and James rivers from melting plains snowpack.
“It is important for those on these rivers and the Missouri River downstream from Sioux City not to get complacent as the stages are declining. They will likely climb again,” said Kevin Low, lead hydrologist from the National Weather Service’s Missouri Basin River Forecast Center in Pleasant Hill, Missouri.
The West Fork of the Little Sioux River, a tributary of the Missouri River, rose to a record crest of 26.6 feet on Friday before gradually receding over the weekend. It stood at 14.89 feet at 6 p.m. Monday.
Deb Nelson said it was fear of the unknown that kept her up at night during the flood threat that forced Hornick residents to evacuate. This was also true for another resident, Erin Lindsay.
"Social media is great for keeping you abreast of things," Lindsay said. "It's also scary since you see, in real time, the flooding of your town."
Damage to Lindsay's home was minimal. The same can't be said for the Hornick United Methodist Church, according to the Rev. Catie Newman.
"Our kitchen and pantry are under about 4 or 5 feet of water," she said. "It's easy to feel hopeless when something like that happens. You persevere and take things one day at a time."
On Monday, Newman was creating a makeshift food pantry inside of Hornick's American Legion Hall. The food came courtesy of the American Red Cross and the Food Bank of Siouxland as well as volunteers wanting to help out.
"Today is the first day that power's been restored for most of the town," Newman said. "Food spoils when when you don't have power for days."
That's why being able to pick up canned goods or a packaged meal seems like a step toward normalcy.
This sense of normalcy is something that Deb Nelson had spent days waiting for.
"When we were getting ready to evacuate, my heart skipped a beat when I locked the front door," she said. "We have a lot of hard work ahead of us. But at least we're home."
The Journal's Dave Dreeszen contributed to this story.
SIOUX CITY -- At the end of Monday's Sioux City Council meeting, Mayor Pro-Tem Dan Moore stressed that the council has been working hard to establish a "mega site" in the metro area.
"I just didn't want anybody to have the impression that we weren't doing anything or worse yet, that we didn't care, because we do care about a mega site. We know the benefits of it," he said.
Moore brought up the issue during the time allotted for council concerns. In a story published in Sunday's Journal, Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa Finance Authority, said that government leaders in Sioux City and Woodbury County need to play a more active role in luring a "mega site" to the area. A "mega site" requires at least 1,000 acres of shovel-ready land.
The Journal's editorial board called for local leaders to "dream big and leave no stone unturned" when it comes to pursuing a "mega site."
Durham warned that either Sioux City or Council Bluffs -- the two largest metropolitan areas in the western part of the state -- would eventually receive the large-scale certified industrial site. Whichever city prepares a site first will all-but-completely lock out the other from receiving a "mega site" of its own, according to Durham. The economic development agency envisions four geographically spaced sites across the state, with just one west of the Des Moines area.
"Mayor (Bob Scott) and I have had many conversations about it. ... Then the county needs to be more active. The county talks about that," Durham told the Journal.
Scott was absent from Monday's council meeting. Moore said a "mega site" is a "priority of the City Council," but also a "team effort."
"There's a lot of players that come into play. There's a lot of state law that comes into play," Moore said.
When she first got elected in 2011, Councilwoman Rhonda Capron said developing a "mega site" was a "very big deal." She suggested that a "director" take the lead on the project.
"I think maybe we need someone to take the reins and go with it," she said.
The council unanimously voted to end the discount that senior citizens receive on garbage collection rates.
Since a bill related to the issue died in the Iowa Legislature earlier this month, Moore said council members were left with "no choice" but to eliminate it.
At a Feb. 11 council meeting, City Attorney Nicole DuBois told the council the city should follow the state auditor's recommendation to end the senior discount because it puts the city at risk for a class-action age discrimination suit.
Sen. Jackie Smith, D-Sioux City, last month introduced a bill to allow local governments to regulate garbage rates as they see fit. However, that bill did not make it out of committee by the deadline by which legislation must win committee approval to remain eligible for consideration this session.
SIOUX CITY -- Financially troubled Shopko will close all its remaining stores, including its location in Sioux City, by June.
The Green Bay, Wisconsin-based retailer, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year, said Monday it was unable to find a buyer for the business and will begin winding down its operations beginning this week.
The company said Gordon Brothers will oversee a liquidation process that is expected to conclude in 10 to 12 weeks.
"This is not the outcome that we had hoped for when we started our restructuring efforts," CEO Russ Steinhorst said in a statement. "We want to thank all of our teammates for their hard work and dedication during their time at Shopko."
The company in February had announced plans to close 250 stores, or about 70 percent of its locations. The Shopko at 3025 Hamilton Blvd. was one of about 120 stores the retailer had hoped to keep open as it looked for a buyer. That list also included the Shopko Hometowns in Sheldon, Iowa, and Wayne, Nebraska.
The Shopko Hometowns in Cherokee, Estherville, Ida Grove and Onawa, Iowa, and in Norfolk and West Point, Nebraska, were among the stores the Wisconsin-based chain had previously targeted for closure.
All store closures are expected to be completed by June 16, according to a bankruptcy court document.
The move came after Shopko canceled an auction it had scheduled for Tuesday in the hopes of driving up the price of initial bids that were due last week.
The company's excessive debt and ongoing competitive pressure forced it to seek bankruptcy protection from creditors. The company reported assets of less than $1 billion and liabilities of between $1 billion and $10 billion.
The Sioux City Shopko includes a vision center. The company said Monday it continues to evaluate options for its optical business. The northside store's pharmacy recently closed after it was sold to the Hy-Vee chain.
As part of its plans to move forward with a smaller number of brick-and-mortar stores, Shopko had recently signed an extension of its lease for the Sioux City store at Marketplace Shopping Centre, said John Gleeson, a Sioux City businessman who heads a company that owns the Marketplace properties. Shopko, which was founded in Green Bay in 1962, has operated at its current Sioux City location since the late 1970s. Built in 1963, the store originally housed discount retail chain Woolco, back when the property was known as the Sunset Shopping Center.
In 1999, Shopko purchased Pamida, a regional discount chain that had stores in several smaller Siouxland cities. In 2012, Shopko and Pamida merged into a single company, and the remaining Pamida stores were rebranded as Shopko Hometowns soon afterwards.
At its peak, Shopko operated more than 300 stores in 24 Midwestern and Western states.
SIOUX CITY -- U.S. Rep. Steve King in a social media post speculated that red states, with "about 8 trillion bullets," would win a hypothetical Civil War against Iowa and other "blue" states that do not "know which bathroom to use."
The post was made on King's official campaign Facebook page Saturday, where he topped a meme image of a combination of red and blue states lined up into the rough forms of two people squaring off in a fight.
That image had the wording, “Folks keep talking about another Civil War ... One side has about 8 trillion bullets, while the other side doesn’t know which bathroom to use.” The post was completed with King writing on top, "Wonder who would win....," then adding an emoji smirk.
In the image, Iowa is among the blue states, which is the category for Democratic-leaning. The amalgamation of red states, which connotes Republican-leaning, is into a person shown to be striking the blue states in the midsection.
The reference to states not knowing "which bathroom to use" appears to be a reference to places that support transgender people having gender-neutral options.
King’s campaign office did not immediately respond Monday to a Journal inquiry on the post.
King, a Republican from Kiron, represents the Iowa 4th Congressional District. He is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, and speaks against gun control measures. His Facebook page has other posts related to guns, including two Sunday, one of which shares the post of another person who said President Donald Trump is not responsible for the Friday shooting in which 50 people were killed in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Unlike in the U.S., mass shootings are almost unheard of in that nation. The gunman obtained five firearms, including two military-style weapons, and reportedly killed people at the mosques over 35 minutes.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, "I can tell you right now our gun laws will change," she said.
King's year as a congressman in 2019 has been much different than his 16 prior years of representing Iowans.
In January, King was stripped of all his committee assignments for the next two years, following a national uproar over King's quote in a New York Times story in which he asked, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?"
At a February town hall meeting in Rock Rapids, Iowa, King again took issue with the story, saying the reporter "at best" misquoted him. His office has sent other releases recently describing ways the Times reporting was flawed.