A widening scope of disaster

Add seven more names to the list of Iowa counties eligible for disaster aid. Calhoun, Clarke, Dallas, Hamilton, Ida, Keokuk and Washington counties now join 50 others on the July 29 Presidential Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance.

This mammoth list puts the extent of flooding this summer in perspective. It means that more than half of Iowa’s counties have officially brushed with disaster.

According to a press release on Gov. Chet Culver’s Website:

Public Assistance funds are available to state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations…for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities.


Individual Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Read more information from FEMA.

Doak: Iowa’s weather disasters are ‘the new normal’

The Delhi Dam's failure in July is just one of a slew of natural disasters in Iowa that show the need for policy confronting the reality of Iowa's changing climate. - Photo by Reuters

If you have yet to read it, be sure to check out Richard Doak’s outstanding editorial in last Sunday’s Des Moines Register. In it he convincingly argues that, like it or not, we are now knee-deep in the unpredictable, hardship-ridden reality of “post-climate change Iowa,” and local and state policymakers need to address it.

Doak, a retired Register editor who lectures at Simpson College and Iowa State University, suggests a wide range of proactive measures we could take to mitigate some of the disastrous effects of Iowa’s changing climate, including restoring wetlands and “getting out of the way” of flood waters by limiting development in flood zones.

An excerpt:

The warm, soggy summer of 2010 in all likelihood is not an aberration. It is the new normal.

Henceforth, more summers will be like 2010 than not. And, if climate change is just in its early stages, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Iowa is working to help people cope with the floods of 2010, even as others are still recovering from floods and tornadoes of 2008. Helping neighbors is the first priority, but this should also be an occasion for long-range thinking about how to mitigate future disasters.

What adjustments should our state be making to live in a new climate era where the abnormal has become normal?

It’s a question the state’s would-be leaders should be discussing in this election year.

Iowa’s Carmichael addresses Chinese dignitaries, world representatives on chemical weather

Greg Carmicheal

On May 9, Greg Carmichael spoke in China to help clear the air – or at least improve its quality around the globe.

The CGRER co-director and University of Iowa professor of chemical and biochemical engineering addressed a slew of international leaders – including China’s vice premier and meteorological heads from over 30 countries – as the key speaker at the Honor Day for the MeteoWorld Pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

The only non-governmental attendee, Carmichael spoke on “Chemical Weather — A Challenge and an Opportunity for Service Delivery and Risk Reduction.”

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From the archives: State lawmakers open ears to CGRER, Flood Center researchers

A row of researchers wait to present their research to lawmakers. From left to right: student Mohamed Habib, researcher Dr. Nathan Young and students Jesse Piotrowski, Dan Gilles, Kyutae Lee and Bongchul Seo.

DES MOINES – It’s not often that students can directly affect public policy, but researchers at CGRER and the Iowa Flood Center had that chance during a legislative breakfast on March 10 in Iowa State Capitol Room 116.

Colorful maps on computer screens and poster boards filled the room’s plush confines and open-eared legislators chowed down on pastries as researchers provided updates on the Centers’ progress in curbing future flood damage in the state.

Standing alongside an illustration of an affordable river stage censor he helped develop, University of Iowa engineering student Ben Peiffer said he was excited to present his recommendations directly to legislators.

And lawmakers said they were impressed with the projects and considered them quite timely on a day in which Raccoon River ice jams in Polk and Dallas Counties prompted flash flood warnings in the Des Moines metro area.

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From the archives: UI students return from Copenhagen well-informed, optimistic

COP15 logoIn just her third year at the University of Iowa, Bethany Patten never dreamed she would be able to truthfully add “attended an international climate conference” to her resume. But now she can.

While most UI students likely sought respite from lectures, writing assignments and most anything academic during their long month of winter break, Patten – an International Studies and Economics double major – was among eight UI students who did just the opposite, immersing herself in the complicated scientific, political and economic discourse of COP15 – the much-anticipated UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

While attendees did have the brief chance to take in normal sites and sounds of the green, “City of Spires,” their stay in Copenhagen was far from leisurely.

“I didn’t see the sun in Copenhagen for four days,” said Senior Abbie Gruwell, who studies Political Science and International Business and interns at the UI’s newly-created Office of Sustainability. “Every day was different.”

As did most of the UI students, Gruwell spent the bulk of her two weeks at the conference attending symposia and listening to lectures from field experts on a variety of topics.

This central eating area of the Bella Center was surrounded by a huge exhibit area and conference rooms for NGO programs, an exhibit and office area for nations and NGOs, two plenary session rooms, negotiating rooms, and special areas for the press.

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A Watershed Woman: Connie Mutel

Photo by Tim Schoon.

IT’S EASY to sum up Connie Mutel’s complexity. Simply put, she’s a renaissance woman.

Tucked away in her office in the IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering Institute’s archives, Mutel enjoys the hundreds of years of history and scientific research at her fingertips.

But she’s the antithesis of what one might expect from a historian and archivist. She does more than just preserve and organize documents in a stuffy room. Outside of her office, she engages with Iowa’s natural landscape and with her pen, campaigns vigorously, yet eloquently to help protect it.

An eternal liberal arts student, Mutel dons many figurative hats atop her shortly-cropped hair. Beyond her archival duties at the IIHR, she is also an ecologist and accomplished writer and editor.

Mutel has edited the soon to be released A Watershed Year: Anatomy of the Iowa Floods of 2008 – her twelfth book – a diverse collection of essays that scientifically dissect the Iowa floods of 2008. The compilation includes works from many of Mutel’s colleagues at IIHR.

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