Iowa Flood Victims: Waiting For Answers

Linda Seger can't wait to move back into her house. Flooded out last June - along with some 20,000 of her neighbors - she has almost restored her 100-year-old house eight blocks from the Cedar River, CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds reports.

"This was Grandpa and Grandma's house and this is the hub of our family," Seger said.

While the city had mentioned possible buyouts for homeowners, Linda's family got tired of waiting. They started building - sinking their life savings into the effort.

But then, last December, the Army Corps of Engineers announced Linda's house is in a zone for construction of a new levee to be built sometime in the future.

When exactly? No one knows. But it could mean Seger's new home is in the way and may have to go.

Living in a FEMA trailer since July - she decided to proceed anyway.

"Even if we have a crane sitting next door to us swinging across our yard," Seger said.

There are a few reconstruction projects like Seger's, but most of the 5,300 homes lost in the Cedar Rapids flood look like the one next door - decaying hulks in a depressing no man's land.

Eight months after the flood inundated 10 square miles of Cedar Rapids, rows of deserted homes attest to a maddeningly slow and numbingly complicated recovery effort.

"We're going to buy out as many of them as we can," said Cedar Rapids Mayor, Kay Halloran. "And we will do it as soon as we have money."

That's the problem. Buyout money for Cedar Rapids is stalled in the Washington bureaucracy. Strict spending rules weren't even published until January.

"The federal money comes with all kinds of rules that make it very difficult to move things forward," said Iowa State Senator, Rob Hogg. "Hard working Iowans shouldn't be told we'll make a decision about your property in five years or eight years.

Doug Ward was one of those hard-working Iowans until the flood destroyed his business - and more.

"Our house is gone too," Ward said.

"The house and the business?" asked Reynolds.

"And our church too," explained Ward.

Like most of his neighbors, Doug is in limbo and waiting for answers.

Seger took action - because no one seemed to have any.

"Why not put back our home, enjoy it while we can," Seger said. "At least it's our home."

A spokesman for the housing department in Washington said there is "a deep appreciation that the people of Iowa are suffering."

And, as Reynolds reports, they certainly are.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.