Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Wednesday requested a federal disaster declaration in 13 counties along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, which will trigger assistance needed after devastating spring flooding.
In northwestern Missouri — where Interstate 29 is still closed, towns are submerged and hundreds of acres of farmland are underwater — many residents wondered why the declaration took a month longer than those in Nebraska and Iowa.
Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa were hit hard by flooding after a “bomb cyclone” in mid-March, but governors in Nebraska and Iowa were quick to declare the disaster that brought millions in federal aid.
Missouri took more time with its disaster assessment, said State Emergency Management Agency Director Ron Walker, and damage in the other states was worse than in Missouri.
“I think our damage level wasn’t at the catastrophic level that was apparent from the TV news footage and those types of things that were being reported in both Iowa and Nebraska,” he said.
Last week, Richard Oswald, a farmer near Langdon, Missouri, said he hoped to get Federal Emergency Management Agency relief for his home, which was lost in the flood. The disaster declaration was good news, he said.
“I’m thankful for any help the state of Missouri and FEMA can offer me and all my neighbors, our wage earners and our small businesses here in the Missouri Valley,” Oswald said.
Preliminary assessments are $25 million in damage to infrastructure, Parson’s office said in a release. The 13 counties will get public assistance, so repairs can begin on roads, bridges and other public infrastructure. Those counties are: Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Carroll, Chariton, Holt, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Perry, Platte, Ray and Sainte Genevieve.
On the eastern side of the state on the Mississippi River, Walker said residents have had a “high water event” and have taken protective measures, such as pumping water near the levees.
Walker said he expects the flood waters to take a while to go down in the state's Boot Heel, so there will be follow-up damage assessments there.
Parson also requested individual assistance for five counties – Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Holt and Platte – so eligible residents can seek federal help with temporary housing, home repairs, replacement of damaged belongings and vehicles, and other expenses, the governor’s office said.
The governor also requested assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration, so the federal agency can offer low-interest loans to businesses, homeowners and renters in the affected counties.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the governor made the disaster declaration. In fact, Gov. Mike Parson requested the federal declaration.
Peggy Lowe is a reporter at KCUR 89.3 and is on Twitter at @peggyllowe.