Heartland Flood: Pair of flood-stricken Iowa towns set to be wiped off map

Only a few homes will be left standing in the neighboring towns McPaul and Bartlett in Fremont County
Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 10:24 AM CST
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BARTLETT, Iowa (WOWT) - Nearly two years after historic floodwaters devastated the Midwest, a pair of small towns in southwest Iowa are on the brink of disappearing altogether.

6 News was in the neighboring towns of Bartlett and McPaul off Interstate 29 on Thursday. Only a few homes will remain standing there.

“I was like ‘go, go, go,’ ” said Carol Boty, recalling the day she and her husband escaped as floodwaters rushed over roads. “It was like a movie — like nothing I’ve ever seen in Bartlett.”

The Missouri River’s overflow destroyed the town’s roughly two dozen homes. All but a couple of owners are either opting for a FEMA buyout or simply walking away.

“The county attorney is hoping to have all the buyouts processed by the end of this month, and then we’ll start on the demolition process,” said Mike Crecelius, Fremont County emergency management director.

Once the homes are torn down, the land cannot be rebuilt; meaning both the towns of Bartlett and McPaul will be all but gone.

“There’s only going to be two houses left in Bartlett when it’s done and over with because some of the people just walked away. So the county will have to look at something as far as demo-ing them,” Crecelius said.

One of the two homes left standing in Bartlett will be Boty’s; she and her husband are staying.

“I know people are probably like why do you keep coming back, but it’s home. And I know a lot of people have left. The church has even left,” said Boty, noting it’s tough to watch. “The people who have walked away you know, there’s mold, and the grain elevator over there by the tracks there are rats.”

Boty told 6 News she’s seen her share of floods hit Bartlett and understands why people are leaving, but hopes they don’t forget.

“I mean I get. I get it,” she said. “But we still need a little help down in Bartlett.”

Flood-stricken counties across both Iowa and Nebraska were told by FEMA officials back in 2019 that the buyout process can take up to three years to complete. 6 News has also reported on studies showing it can take up to five years.

Mills County has already begun tearing down some of the homes bought out by FEMA. Pacific Junction has also started with demolitions; the majority of the town’s roughly 180 homes will be coming down.

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