Mr.  President, I rise to offer my thoughts and prayers to the people and communities throughout the Midwest who were hurt by last week's massive floods.  It appears that the flood waters have begun to recede but the long, hard process of cleaning up and rebuilding lies ahead.  In particular, I offer my sympathy and support to my colleagues, Senator Harkin and Senator Grassley.  Their governor has declared 83 of Iowa’s 99 counties to be disaster areas.  Worse hit was the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Over nine square miles, or 1,300 blocks, were flooded in the city.  25,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes.  Preliminary estimates indicated over $700 million in damage.  This is in Cedar Rapids alone. 

In Cedar Rapids, it's being called not the flood of the century but the flood of the half millennium, an event that should occur once in only 500 years.  In fact, rescue workers from my state of Minnesota have been deployed to Iowa to help the victims of the flooding there.  While the residents and businesses of Cedar Rapids were hit the hardest, they were hardly alone.  Heavy rainfall last week submerged much of the Midwest.  Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas and my own state of Minnesota.  Throughout the Midwest, corn and soybean fields turned into lakes.  City streets turned into canals.  It's like water world in many parts of the Midwest, Mr.  President.   There's water everywhere and where there isn't water, there's mud.  Lots of mud.

In terms of physical devastation, some are calling these floods the Katrina of the Midwest.  Among the areas suffering flood damage were the southeastern corner of my state of Minnesota.  Three major rivers in the area, the Root River, the Cedar and the Zumbro, all flooded.  Four Minnesota counties were declared state disaster areas, Freeborn, Mower, Fillmore and Houston counties.  This includes areas that have already suffered extensive flood damage in the past year, both with the devastating floods in August last year as well as the floods earlier this spring. 

As you can see from this aerial photograph taken just last week, flood waters poured across big sections of the city, flooding not just streets but highways and freeway ramps.  This weekend, I spoke with the mayors of Austin, Rochester and Lanesboro.  Later in the week I plan to meet with leaders and residents.  I know these communities are strong, just as you will see with the state of Iowa, whose state has been hit even harder, and they will make it through these disasters. 

Last week's flooding resulted in deaths.  One Minnesota man, Dale Wagon, of rural Albert Lea, was driving home in the dark, rainy night and suddenly his car plunged into rushing flood waters because the road was washed away.  Emergency responders found him only because another car came along and also plunged into the water.  That driver was able to get out but he told rescuers that his car had crashed on top of another car.  Austin, Minnesota’s home to Hormel foods, a fortune 500 company had to close their corporate offices because of the flood. 

Here's a second photograph of Austin also taken last week.  You can see that it wasn't just a few wet basements.  Some neighborhoods were flooded practically up to the treetops and had to be evacuated.  Fortunately, unlike much of Iowa that we will hear about from Senator Harkin and Senator Grassley, Austin was spared even worse damage because ever since a major flood 30 years ago, they have been implementing a comprehensive flood mitigation plan, including the purchase of more than 250 homes in flood-prone areas.  Nonetheless, the three worst floods in Austin’s history have all occurred since the year 2000 with the worst in 2004. 

As one resident of Austin put it, it seems like we're getting a 100-year flood every three or four years.  While the most attention is given to cities and towns damaged by the floods, the countryside has not been spared either.  Houston County at the far southeastern tip of Minnesota is a rural area with a total population of just 20,000.  Preliminary estimates indicate that Houston County alone has suffered up to $7 million in infrastructure damage and $15 million in crop damage.  Heavy spring rains had already delayed the planting of crops throughout the Midwest.  Now there are acres and acres of young corn and soy bean plants that are underwater.

The work that Senator Harkin has done as chairman of the senate agriculture committee, and making sure that we get permanent disaster relief is just an example.  These floods are just an example of why this was so important in this bill.  We will not know the full extent of the damage until the harvest this fall but the end result could be billions of dollars in crop losses. 

At a time like this, local communities should not be expected to fend for themselves.  The federal government has an essential role to support communities as they recover and build.  In these circumstances, the federal emergency management agency, FEMA, must be a lifeline to help these communities both survive and come back.  FEMA is the primary coordinator of all federal responses to this national tragedy, from first making sure that people are safe and secure, to then making sure that those people are made whole again, to finally make sure that their infrastructure is reliable and made stronger so that such disasters do not happen again.  We saw this in flooding last year in southeastern Minnesota where whole communities were washed up.  And we went through toes three steps so that those communities are now beginning to thrive again. 

The Small Business Administration plays a key role in recovery activities, and while we didn't need it, the floods provide justification, as I said, for the first-ever permanent program of disaster assistance under the farm bill.  In my state of Minnesota, it has been a tough two years when it comes to disasters. 

Last spring we had the ham lake fire that burned 76,000 acres in northern Minnesota.  On august 1, we had the collapse of the interstate 35w bridge in the heart of our twin cities metropolitan area, killing 13 people and injuring over 100.  Later in august of this last year, we had the devastating floods in southeastern Minnesota that cost six lives and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage.  Listen a month ago on the Sunday evening before Memorial Day, the small community of Hugo was devastated by a fierce tornado, killing a two-year-old boy and seriously injuring his sister.  50 homes were completely destroyed.  But there is one special thing we've seen with each of these disasters.  It is the sight of people joining together to help and care for others in need. 

Even with all the devastation disasters like these still bring out the very best in the human spirit.  Not just neighbors helping neighbors but strangers helping strangers.  Disasters can take away lives, they can destroy homes and they can wipe away roads and bridges.  But in America, we will not let them take away the spirit of our community.  With this appropriate state and federal support, I’m confident that the flood-damaged communities of the Midwest will drive once again w.  Leaders like Senator Harkin and Senator -- again. 

With leaders like Senator Harkin and Senator Grassley, I am confident that Iowa will thrive once again.  I think about the epic flood that occurred 11 years ago on the red river boarding North Dakota and Minnesota.  The waters inundated downtown Grand Forks in North Dakota and East Grand Forks in Minnesota.  60,000 people had to evacuate.  900 lost their homes and 11 downtown buildings were destroyed but with the hard work of Senators Dorgan and Conrad and officials throughout North Dakota and Minnesota, it is amazing to visit these communities today and see how they have rebuilt and moved forward.  I hear that officials from Grand Forks have already reached out and are talking with their counterparts in Cedar Rapids, giving them advice on everything from legal issues to how to rebuild.  That, too, Mr. President, is the spirit of America.  We know that we will be able to get through this disaster because we know we will work together and provide support to one another.