Flood victims moving from refuge at Iowa state park

Flooding near the interchange between Interstate 29 and Iowa Highway 333, west of Hamburg, on June 17, 2019 (Courtesy: Iowa Department of Transportation)
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HAMBURG, Iowa (AP) — Some people forced from their homes by Missouri River floodwaters will be leaving their refuge at an Iowa state park, forced away by the lack of water.

Waubonsie State Park sits dry a few miles north of the southwest Iowa community of Hamburg, which was hit hard after two nearby river levees failed earlier this year. Flood victims from Hamburg, McPaul, Pacific Junction and Percival found their way to the park and to safety elsewhere in Iowa and across the river in Nebraska.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds soon signed a proclamation waiving the usual camping fees and stay limits at the park, and until this month, the 30 or so park RV sites were open only to those affected by flooding.

Park manager Matt Moles told Omaha, Nebraska, station KETV that the park had about 80 flood refugees staying there during peak occupancy this past spring. That number dwindled as people returned to their homes or found other accommodations. Moles told The Associated Press on Friday that only a dozen of them remain.

Few who lost their homes took refuge in Nebraska state parks, officials said. Several state parks or recreation areas, including Louisville State Recreation Area on the Platte River, Niobrara State Park near the Niobrara River, and Two Rivers State Recreation Area near the Platte and the Elkhorn rivers, were damaged or cut off during the historic flooding in eastern Nebraska.

But now winter approaches, and Iowa officials have posted on the Waubonsie park website that the campground shower facility will be closed Tuesday and won't reopen until April. Campground water hydrants also will be turned off, the Iowa Natural Resources Department said, because of the impending seasonal freeze and the need for repairs.

"We just can't fight Mother Nature and we can't avoid the onset of winter," Moles said.

Electricity still will be available, and offseason camping will be allowed. But department spokesman Alex Murphy told the AP that any remaining flood victims would have to start paying the reduced winter space rate and observe stay limits.

"It just boils down to living in a camper on a campground without modern utilities in the winter is a nonviable solution for everybody," Moles said.

Robert Hines left his Hamburg home in April and has been living in a donated camper at the park. He told KETV that he'll be moving to Farragut.

"I lost everything I owned. I got to start from scratch all over again," Hines said.