THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE FLOODING IN THE MID-WEST
I am very concerned about the flooding in the heartland of our country and I've asked Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy to survey the region and see firsthand what the excessive rains have done to agriculture production there. I also have directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to keep me fully informed of their activities on behalf of the affected states.
The Mississippi River is closed to navigation over a 500 mile stretch from the Twin Cities in Minnesota to St. Louis. Clearly, this is one of the most significant natural disasters midwestern residents, business owners, and agricultural producers have faced in a very long time. This region of the country is dependent upon agricultural production and when agriculture faces a disaster like this one, everyone is adversely affected.
Tomorrow Secretary Espy will travel to Iowa, Wisconsin (weather permitting), Minnesota and South Dakota to view the rain-related damage and talk face-to-face with farmers and area residents about the damage.
FEMA Director James Lee Witt reports that his agency already has placed Survey Teams in the field where they are working with the State Emergency Operating Centers. These teams are laying the groundwork necessary for Federal Disaster Assistance. We intend to speed the recovery of the affected communities and insure disaster victims receive the help they need as rapidly as possible.
Upon his return, Secretary Espy will brief me on the condition of the area and make recommendations that will help our fellow citizens living in the region.
As you know, nine counties in southwestern Minnesota were declared disaster areas in late May. Last week, I granted Governor Arne Carlson's request to extend the incident period to allow for coverage for the torrential rains after May 19th through June.
Wisconsin has been hard hit. The break in the dam at Blackriver Falls has destroyed or damaged over 100 homes. Many of the town's residents have no flood insurance. Governor Tommy Thompson has already asked the National Guard to assist the evacuation of flood victims.
Iowa's Governor Branstad also is using the National Guard to assist flood victims in the eastern part of his state. He has told us that many homes and business have been flooded out and thousands more are at risk if the levy breaks.
The Mississippi river continues to rise in Missouri, threatening towns still dealing with the ravages of the May floods. FEMA teams are in eastern Missouri, continuing to monitor the flooding of the Mississippi. Some areas have been evacuated and preliminary damage assessment teams are in place for a formal assessment request, pending a call from Governor Mel Carnahan.
I commend the bravery and endurance of the many midwesterners facing torrents of rain and rivers that have not yet crested. We will work together to rebuild your communities as we work together to rebuild America.