Small Towns Battle the Mighty Mississippi

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WASHINGTON - Thousands of Midwesterners are still sandbagging to hold back floodwaters moving down the Mississippi.

But the flooding has been so widespread up the river; it may actually be lowering the danger for those downstream.

Good News and Bad News

The good news is some of the towns down the Mississippi may not get inundated by record high waters that were expected.

The bad news is that's because the Mississippi has already burst through so many levees upstream and bled off some of the pressure into the towns, fields and farms in those upstream areas.

Still, the danger isn't over for those downstream, and thousands of women and men have kept up frantic sandbagging efforts to hold back the raging river.

The sandbagging is all some towns like Louisiana, Missouri have. There is no levee there.

"Here we're pretty much on our own," said resident John Frisbie. Frisbie has been getting much needed back up from sandbagging volunteers.

"I'm plum wore out," he said. "I have volunteers come here and work a few hours and say, 'I don't know how you do it.' You don't know what you can do until you have to."

Losing it All

To the north, heartbroken residents are coming back into neighborhoods where the waters have receded.

Nineteen-year-old Sasha Lundgren says the hardest part was seeing her father break down. They'd tried to save everything by moving it upstairs, but their home is a total loss.

"They said the house is so bad we can't go up there. They won't even allow us to go in," she said.

Much of Cedar Rapids, Iowa is now covered in a stinking, toxic sludge.

Timothy Brooks can barely stand looking at the ruin that was his home.

"All of my pictures of my kids, and it's all trashed," he said.

Just three blocks away the Cedar River, 68-year-old Ron Palmer has also lost everything. The waters even overwhelmed the tin that had held his wife's remains.

Another Katrina?

President Bush came to tour the flooding and the devastation, bringing federal aid and what words of comfort he could.

"The good news is the people in Iowa are tough-minded people," the President said.

He doesn't want a repeat of Katrina, when the federal response was thought to be so slow and inadequate.

But there's already anger in the air.

"I really don't have much of an opinion of his coming," said flood victim Lashawn Bake. "It took him a long time to get to New Orleans and he didn't help any of those people, so I don't think he's going to do anything to help Cedar Rapids now that he's here."

Many Midwest residents didn't buy or stopped buying flood insurance near levees FEMA judged capable of withstanding the kind of flood that may come along every hundred years.

Now those people have watched their homes and belongings get destroyed by the kind of flooding that - by some estimates - comes along once every 500 years.

Some in Congress, like Senator Chris Dodd, are considering legislation that would require everyone to buy flood insurance whose home could possibly be flooded by the breach of a dam or levee.

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Paul Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

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