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Kim Reynolds tours Hornick as town recovers from flood
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Kim Reynolds tours Hornick as town recovers from flood

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Dale Ronfeldt on deck

Dale Ronfeldt, a former mayor and longtime member of the volunteer fire department in Hornick, Iowa, gave Gov. Kim Reynolds a tour of his home that was damaged after a levee was breached on the West Fork of the Little Sioux River. Ronfeldt's backyard, beyond his deck, is completely under water.

HORNICK, Iowa -- During a tour of Hornick on Sunday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds saw much of the flooded Woodbury County town, including "waterfront property" owned by Dale Ronfeldt.

The water -- several feet deep past his outdoor deck -- came courtesy of a breached levee on the West Fork of the Little Sioux River occurring Thursday. Almost all residents of the town of 250 were evacuated as a result.

"We thought our basement would be dry," said Ronfeldt, a member of the Hornick City Council as well as the town's fire and rescue department. "Now we have four feet of water in it."

Residents were allowed to survey damage and pick up personal items beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday. However, they were required to leave again by 8 p.m., by order of Mayor Scott Mitchell. 

Gov. Reynolds surveying flood damage

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds surveys flood damage in the Woodbury County town of Hornick on Sunday. Reynolds had toured Missouri Valley, Iowa, also impacted by floods, earlier in the afternoon.

"We're still waiting to see what happens," he said, after being asked when residents may be allowed to return home permanently. 

Reynolds has issued disaster proclamations for 36 Iowa counties, including Woodbury County. That means residents of Hornick can get financial assistance for losses.

Yet Ronfeldt, a Hornick native, said he expected some loss of population, due to the community's aging demographic.

Hornick mayor

Hornick Mayor Scott Mitchell, shown March 17 during the aftermath of historic flooding in the small Woodbury County town, won re-election Tuesday night.

That was a sentiment shared by Mitchell, who is also a Hornick native.

"We've been through floods before," he said. "We're a family and the community has always pulled together."

Reynolds, who also toured the similarly flooded Missouri Valley, Iowa, earlier on Sunday, was fast to compliment the efforts of Hornick's first responders, as well as Woodbury County Emergency Management for proactive planning.

"They were able to keep residents informed," she said during a news conference Sunday afternoon at Sioux Gateway Airport. "They had a plan in place."

Reynolds press conference

During a news conference Sunday at the Sioux Gateway Airport, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said recent flooding on the Big Sioux and Missouri rivers may be more severe than flooding that took place in the summer of 2011. That is because this most recent flooding also involved the Platte River, which impacted Southwest Iowa as well as Nebraska. 

When all of the damage is assessed statewide, Reynolds said, this flooding may be more devastating than when the Missouri River flooded in the summer of 2011.

"During that flood, the Platte (River in Nebraska) wasn't impacted," she said. "This time, it was."

Reynolds said it may take months before everything gets back to normal. She is set to give a flood update on Monday and may do another tour of the area, early in the week.

If she returns to Siouxland, chances are she'll be greeted by mild temperatures and dry conditions.

According to Lance Vandenboogart, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, Monday's daytime high of 44 is just the beginning of a warm-up. By the end of the week, temps will rise to the upper 50s. 

While a 50 percent chance of rain is in the forecast for next Saturday, the remainder of the week will be precipitation-free, he said.

This is a good thing since the Missouri River in Sioux City crested at 29.7 feet at around 4 a.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. The water levels are likely to go down in the coming days.

It was a major concern for Jeff Dooley, manager of the Dakota Dunes Community Improvement District, who said he and other volunteers spent their Saturday night monitoring water levels on the Missouri. 

"We began noticing growth above the projected trends," he said. "With a very small margin for error in the Spyglass area, we decided to go door-to-door at around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning."

Approximately 240 households were asked to evacuate their Dakota Dunes homes. They were able to return later in the same day.

Unfortunately, Hornick residents aren't quite so lucky.

Despite that, Ronfeldt was encouraged by offers of help from community members.

"People have been incredibly generous," he said. 

Mitchell is already looking toward the future. 

"Our volunteer firefighter association is hosting a pancake breakfast on March 30," he said. "I encourage everyone to stop by to see how Hornick is doing."

Copyright 2019 The Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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