Sparsely populated, rural and isolated, the Midwest is unfortunately no stranger to low attention disasters—costly events that often do not warrant federal or state support. In just the first five months of this year, the Midwest Early Recovery Fund’s ten-state region has suffered losses totaling more than $6 billion—yes billion with a ‘b’—due to low attention natural disasters.
There have been floods in 357 of our total 821 counties, including one of the largest floods in recent history in parts of Missouri and Arkansas; unprecedented, record-breaking wildfires in 56 counties throughout Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma and 197 tornadoes. Despite the widespread impact on public infrastructure, business, and homeowners, only one disaster (the Arkansas/Missouri floods) was awarded a FEMA Individual Assistance Declaration.
Struggling to recover and rebuild, these Midwest communities find it hard to win the public’s attention when their disasters don’t make state headlines, let alone national news. That’s where the Midwest Early Recovery Fund comes in.
Near the end of May, I had the privilege to travel over 700 miles across South Dakota and eastern North Dakota with several of my amazing colleagues (pictured right), to take stock of some of our low attention disaster recovery work. We visited Delmont, South Dakota (tornado, May 2015), Crow Creek and Lower Brule Reservations (severe storms, June 2016), and Fargo, North Dakota where incredible mitigation work is attempting to contain the infamous Red River of the North.
We heard disaster recovery stories that were heartbreaking and awe-inspiring. The people we met were humble, hard-working community champions. The scenery was stark, dramatic, and breathtaking. And the food was locally sourced and delicious, especially the homemade rhubarb crisp and caramel pecan pie made by two of Delmont’s finest cooks!
An important resource for all Americans, rural America deserves our support. It is an important source of food, affordable energy, and clean drinking water. It is also home to some of the brightest, toughest, strongest, most resilient, hardworking people I have ever had the privilege to meet.
I encourage you to find out more about how the Midwest Early Recovery Fund investments provide much needed hope and invaluable resources to hundreds of disaster survivors across the Midwest.