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Donna Krahling holds a couple of salvaged photos from her basement after the wall collapsed, leaving water up to the basement ceiling in her George home after Wednesday night's storm.

George floods after heavy rain

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GEORGE, Iowa -- Driving east on A34, the flooded ditches and rows of partially submerged corn near George give way to flooded basements and ruined property inside the city limits.

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Nearly every resident of the small town spent Thursday reacting to a storm that dumped as much as 11 inches of rain on parts of Lyon County and left most basements in George flooded with varying levels of water and sewage.

"George is in pretty tough shape," Lyon County Emergency Management Coordinator Wayne Jepson said early Thursday. "There are 100 to 150 homes with water in the basements, and four or five homes in the George area where basements have collapsed."

He said the Siouxland chapter of the Red Cross is providing clean-up kits to residents and the city has requested mutual aid from nearby emergency services to get enough water pumps for the community.

Though the Rock River stayed within its banks, George's Rio Grande Creek swelled with the rainfall, damaging several area bridges and rendering some impassable.

"We have a lot of infrastructure damaged," Jepson continued. "The city road crew estimates that there are 300 miles of road damage in the county. There are gravel roads washed out, bridge abutments washed out, culverts washed out."

While some had only a few inches of water in their basements, others homes were partially destroyed.

"I heard something and I thought 'I wonder if that's a tree that fell,'" recalled Donna Krahling, whose basement caved in about 11 p.m. Wednesday. She opened the door to the basement and saw the water had risen to the top step.

"It was up to the ceiling in the basement. The deep freeze and the hot water heater tipped over and broke the pipe," she said.

Everything in the basement of her Ohio Street home was left covered in feet of mud, a side wall completely caved in.

"Now I have a swimming pool in my own home," she said with a little smile. "I'm just thankful nobody got hurt."

Her neighbor, Mike Diekem, whose basement window wells are slightly elevated from ground level, had only six inches of water in his home.

"We're finding out we've got lots of help," said Diekem, who was also assisting the community as a member of the George Fire Department.

At J.C. Diamond, the park was flooded with several feet of water, waves lapping over part of South Wilhelm Street while local children used floating picnic tables as rafts and diving boards.

Judd Reifers didn't sleep Wednesday night, fighting the more than three feet of water pooled in his basement. By 3 p.m. Thursday, about four inches still remained inside his Virginia Street dwelling.

"About 11 p.m. I noticed there was a foot of water around the whole house," he remembered. He was able to salvage some furniture and does have sewer insurance, so the property damage will not be a total loss -- but he's dealt with it all before, when his property flooded in 2001.

"It's still coming up from the sewer," said Reifers' neighbor Brian Luenberger. "I've got three pumps running and I still can't get ahead."

At nearby Tabernacle Baptist Church, the entire basement was filled with enough water to warrant replacement of the carpet and cancellation of Sunday school. The church opened its parking lot as a debris dumping site for the community, and people continued unloading truckfuls of warped and water-stained furniture through the afternoon.

The town wasn't the only one affected by a storm system that swept through northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota Wednesday evening, but it was among the hardest hit.

"Some places had as much as four inches, or even a little over four," said Philip Schumacher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Rock Rapids, Iowa, saw a reported 7.25 inches of precipitation; while Sanborn, Iowa, has received a total of 18.59 inches this year, making it the wettest year on record.

Areas around Sprit Lake, Spencer, Inwood and Little Rock also experienced significant rainfall.

"The community of Inwood had 4 to 5 inches, so they have basements that they're pumping out over there," Jepson reported.

Parts of Osceola County were also hit by nearly 7 inches of rain.

"I've been in Melvin most of the morning, I know they were highly affected," said Osceola County Emergency Management Director Dan Bechler. "One basement wall was collapsed and every one of the basements was full."

Rainfall was much lighter in southwest Minnesota, where Luverne, Worthington and Pipestone reported amounts below 2 inches. But even Worthington is seeing its heaviest rainfall since the severe Midwest flooding that occurred in 1993.

Meanwhile, there's a chance for more rain and severe weather tonight.

"It'll be more in Minnesota," Schumacher said. "It's not going to be 6 or 7 inches at all; maybe an inch or two. Right now, we're not looking at widespread 3 to 4 inches like (Wednesday)."

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