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Midwest Residents Still Recovering From Flooding In March

Jul 8, 2019
Originally published on July 8, 2019 7:55 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In the Midwest, people are still recovering from another sort of natural disaster, one that struck months ago. Back in March, heavy rains pounded the region, rivers overflowed.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

One of the people we spoke to back then was Anthony Ruzicka. He's a cattle farmer in eastern Nebraska. His home was inundated with water. And even after it had receded from his land, he told us the ice remained.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ANTHONY RUZICKA: I describe it as standing in the middle of a glacier. That's what it looks like. There's ice caked (ph) 15 feet high. Some of these ice cakes are the size of houses. We have people that I know and people that I don't know that are walking around digging tools - shop tools, household items. They're digging them out of the mud. These people are covered in mud from head to toe. And I don't know how to thank them.

SHAPIRO: Ruzicka's farm had been in his family for five generations. He said he was so devastated he couldn't think straight. He didn't have flood insurance to cover his losses.

CORNISH: Well, we called Ruzicka today to see how he was faring nearly four months after the floods. He was outside in a bit of wind and still cleaning up agricultural gear that was scattered in March.

RUZICKA: I mean, there's like a million different pieces. And each piece has to be sorted through to decide what we want to do with it, if we want to save it. There's a lot of good tools and things in it. It just all really time-consuming. And everything is heavy. So we all kind of have a backache right now from lifting stuff. But we're better than we were last time I talked.

CORNISH: Yeah. I can tell from the tone in your voice you're not sure if you're better.

RUZICKA: We're better. We're better. You know, I've basically been living in a little 16-foot camper. We have a house - a new house, just been trying to rebuild.

CORNISH: I have to say that's good news to hear about your home. What was the process like getting that going?

RUZICKA: Well, I think most people, you know, maybe take time to figure out what you want to do for a house. We didn't have time to figure it out. We had to just go about things way faster than we wanted to. It's expensive. We have to have a house to live in because our old house is not livable.

CORNISH: What alternatives have you looked into? We've been hearing about farmers, for instance, who missed the growing season, maybe for corn, because of the weather. What have you guys been dealing with?

RUZICKA: Yeah. We missed - I mean, our fields were inundated with water and junk. It took a lot of work to clean all that up. And by the time we got that all cleaned up, we just, you know, it just got too late. I don't know. As far as my future, I'm hoping I can continue just to do nothing but farming because it's a time-consuming job. But maybe it's going to have to be an outside job to help pay the bills.

CORNISH: What would that mean?

RUZICKA: I don't know. I've never done anything else in my life but farm. I don't want to because I love what I do. But there comes a time when you have to pay the bills. That's the most important thing. And financially, this is - this has been devastating.

CORNISH: What are you hearing from some of your other friends in the business? How are people coping with this really devastating couple of months?

RUZICKA: You know, I've been so isolated here. I honestly haven't talked to a lot of people. But I know it's hit a lot of people as far as not just the flood, but the whole agriculture economy is not very good right now. You know, everybody has to, I guess, tighten your belt and not spend much money and, you know, just try to make ends meet.

CORNISH: You talked about before - I mean, you didn't have flood insurance. What did you end up doing when it comes to insurance? Have you gotten it since? Has it been a struggle? What should we know?

RUZICKA: No, we don't have flood insurance. And there's no plan on taking out flood insurance. The house that we're building is farther away. It's higher up. And plus, we raised it another four feet besides that. So I'm hoping that that will never get flooded. I guess never is a pretty strong word. But I don't know. Sometimes you can just be insurance poor, if you know what that means. You can just spend so much on insurance that the cost doesn't outweigh the benefit, I guess.

CORNISH: Well, Anthony Ruzicka, thank you so much for speaking with us. And I hope we can check back with you as you rebuild.

RUZICKA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.