Deep Down In Iowa

Danny Wilcox Frazier / Redux for TIME

The Iowa River broke through a levee near Oakville (pop. 428) on June 14, swamping the town and thousands of acres of surrounding farmland.

The 1993 deluge that swamped Iowa and much of the Upper Midwest was supposed to be a 500-year flood. Fifteen years later, Iowans are rethinking that judgment. In a spring of calamitous weather, the state's can-do stoicism was tested by two tornadoes; one tore through a Boy Scout camp and killed four teenagers. Rains then swelled the rivers and strained the levees, which burst indiscriminately. Iowa's second largest city, Cedar Rapids (pop. 124,000), and one of its smallest towns, Chelsea (pop. 276), were inundated. On Friday the 13th, downtown Des Moines was under voluntary evacuation. The surge was both overwhelming and...

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