Many Iowans ‘lost everything’ in historic flooding

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (OSV News) — Numerous communities throughout the 24 counties of the Diocese of Sioux City in northwestern Iowa have been affected by historic flooding as heavy rains have led to swollen rivers and lakes.

The massive water amounts have flooded and closed roadways, destroyed homes and businesses and affected the lives of thousands.

Seventeen counties within the diocese were included in Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ disaster declarations.

Record rainfall and severe weather

The National Weather Service’s forecast area in southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin reported a 48-hour record rainfall over the June 22-23 weekend, according to a news report on KROC 1340 AM, a Rochester, Minnesota, radio station. Severe storms, flooding, straight-line winds and tornadoes began in the region on June 16.

“As numerous areas of our diocese have been devastated by historic flooding, we have thousands of people who are in need. We realize homes, vehicles, possessions and perhaps livelihoods have been lost. People of all faiths are suffering. The faithful of the Diocese of Sioux City and I are praying for those affected by the flooding and will be assisting where we are able,” Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City said in a statement.

Flood victims relief collection

The bishop established a flood victims relief collection, to be taken in all diocesan parishes July 6 and 7. The diocesan Catholic Charities Office is receiving a grant from Catholic Charities USA to provide direct financial assistance to area flood victims. Funds contributed to this collection will be added to the Catholic Charities assistance program in the 24 counties of the Diocese of Sioux City. Contributions may also be given online at

On June 24, Reynolds announced that President Joe Biden has approved Iowa’s request for a major disaster declaration for Iowa counties where there is significant damage, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide assistance to several hard-hit counties.

Dozens of roads in northwest Iowa are closed, making point-to-point travel difficult or impossible. Shelters were established in northwest Iowa by the Red Cross for those who evacuated their homes in Rock Valley, Spencer, Correctionville, Cherokee and Sioux City. Several communities or portions of communities are presently under water.

Impact on church and school properties

As several northwest Iowa communities and individuals are experiencing water damage and property destruction, the impact upon church and school property throughout the diocese at this time appears to be minimal in comparison.

Residents of Spencer in Clay County in northern Iowa have been asked to not travel due to high water levels and road closures. Aerial photos show Grand Avenue, a main thoroughfare through the city, and surrounding areas in the south edge of the city are completely flooded. Citizens have been asked by their mayor not to flush toilets or use showers as the city’s sewer system is not operational. A boil order was in place as of June 25.

Situation in Spencer

Father Kevin Richter, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Spencer, which includes churches in Hartley, Primghar and Sanborn, explained he had to cancel weekend Masses due to the flooding effects. He noted June 24 that the parish office remains closed as the campus was without power and remains without phone or internet service.

The Spencer parish and school properties did not experience water damage but the rectory in Sanborn where retired priest Father Tim Hogan resides has several inches of water as does the Primghar St. Anthony Church basement.

Amy Jones, director of marketing and development for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Sioux City, said due to water damage the Spencer office is temporarily closed.

“There’s no phone service. We are asking that people call the Sioux City office for assistance,” Jones said, noting the Spencer-based therapist can offer telehealth services. Therapists in other northwest Iowa Catholic Charities Offices are poised to help with any patient needs if the Spencer office cannot handle any new patient volume due to the disaster.

Rock Valley evacuations

Residents of Rock Valley were warned by emergency management to evacuate early June 22 due to the flooding caused by heavy rains and a Rock River levee failure.

St. Mary Church in Rock Valley of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish was without electricity and had six inches of water in the church basement over the weekend. St. Mary’s 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass had to be celebrated at Christ the King Church in Sioux Center for those able to travel to the church.

Community support and recovery

Sister Jodie Zimmerman, pastoral minister and director of religious education in Rock Valley said Catholic Mutual Insurance helped arrange for a national firm to clean the church basement, which began June 24.

“They are in the process of cleaning,” Sister Jodie explained. “They are doing it in such a way to eradicate the mold and bacteria from the sewage water.”

She said the parish house where she resides was not affected but many community members were suffering from the flood’s effects.

“So many people have lost their homes — it’s horrible,” she said. “I did talk to a family this afternoon that’s living at Faith Christian Church sleeping on air mattresses. They lost everything.”

However, the pastoral minister said she was pleased to see the community “coming together to help each other,” including parishioner Satu Torres giving away meals from his food truck at the dental office of fellow parishioner Dr. Sam Koth.

This post Many Iowans ‘lost everything’ in historic flooding appeared on Our Sunday Visitor.

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