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Forecast For Rain Keeps Residents Of Flooded Davenport On Alert


Several communities in the Midwest are still under water after rain and melting snow drove the Mississippi River beyond its banks last week. In Davenport, Iowa, the river crested at 7.7 feet above flood stage. The water has been slowly receding since then, but there's more rain in the forecast this week. Benjamin Payne of our member station WVIK reports from Davenport.

BENJAMIN PAYNE, BYLINE: When the water broke through the downtown's temporary flood barrier last week, Randy Paulsen had just minutes to pack up his medication and some clothes before his downtown apartment became submerged. He's now staying at an emergency shelter set up by the Red Cross.

RANDY PAULSEN: I didn't sleep at all that first night. I didn't know what to expect.

PAYNE: I ask him what his plans are.

PAULSEN: I don't have any idea right now. I have no idea. I'm looking for an apartment. But even then, if I find one, I can't get to my stuff to move it because we're still flooded.

PAYNE: Dylan Steil's downtown restaurant is still flooded. This was the restaurant's first year open. But now he doesn't know when the business will be back up.

DYLAN STEIL: When I saw the building, I broke down for about five minutes - didn't know - you know, the world felt like it was collapsing. And then you have no choice but to put one foot in front of the other and move forward. If you collapse, you can't help anyone else. So then the mission became, let's help the employees.

PAYNE: Most of Steil's employees have found temporary employment at other restaurants downtown that have managed to stay open. Even for people whose homes or places of work haven't gotten flooded, it's still a trying time. Lori Steele lives in a neighborhood far enough from the river that her house isn't flooded but close enough that she's had to use up all her vacation time to move her things into storage in case the water rises.

LORI STEELE: It's a little bit hard to be at work. There were times when I would be teary-eyed just from the emotional part of it.

PAYNE: Davenport does not have a permanent floodwall. The city has long shied away from one, with city leaders citing the cost and the detrimental impact of a wall on riverfront recreation. But debate among residents about changing course is already starting to brew as people here wait for the water to return to its banks. For NPR News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Davenport, Iowa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Benjamin Payne is a contributing reporter and floating host at KUNR. He is currently pursuing his master's degree at the University of Nevada, Reno's Reynolds School of Journalism, where he also works as a teaching assistant.