Clinton Signs Flood Relief Bill, Honors ‘Heroes’
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton is sending a $5.7 billion aid package to the flooded Midwest and honoring good Samaritans who helped waterlogged friends and neighbors, including a lifesaving maid from North Dakota and a jet skiing hero from South Dakota.
Stopping in St. Louis on his way to Denver to visit Pope John Paul II, Clinton was to sign the flood relief bill into law today.
He also was to hand out commendations to ″heroes″ from nine states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin and Illinois.
The busy day marked the beginning of a two-week working vacation that also will take Clinton to California, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
The bill provides help to flood-damaged areas and helps farmers suffering from crop losses because of drought in the Southeast and weather problems elsewhere.
Denise Marie Harsche, 32, a maid from Mandan, N.D., is one of the good Samaritans nominated by one of the nine governors to meet Clinton today.
Harsche braved rushing water to pull a trapped man out of his basement apartment during a flash flood July 15. Waterline marks the following day showed that the water eventually rose to the apartment’s ceiling.
″Denise not only battled the swift currents of rushing water, she climbed through a below-ground window, dove under the water and maneuvered her way around a crack between a large heavy grating and the window,″ North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer said.
Then there is Doug Koch, a Wentworth, S.D., resident who used his jet ski to rescue two people stranded by flood waters July 3. He also delivered insulin from the Madison hospital to another stranded person.
Brad Nolte, a Kansas Power and Light employee from Falls City, Neb., helped save a man who was swept from his car. Nolte and two neighbors used a boat, alternately shutting off the motor and listening for the cries for help and starting the engine to head toward the man.
″I can still see his face sticking out of the water and hear his voice hollerin’ for help,″ said Nolte, who planned to be in St. Louis today. ″You can’t forget something like that too easily. Another 10 minutes and I think he would have been gone.″
Jim Castleberry, 39, of Chaska, Minn., chief deputy for the Carver County Sheriff’s Department, is another hero. He helped coordinate the June 22 rescue of two teen-agers clinging to submerged trees in the flooded Minnesota River in Chaska.
″It was no big deal,″ Castleberry said. ″They needed help and I gave it.″
Tim Hatfield, a sporting goods store owner from St. Joseph, Mo., is a flood victim, but he is trying to recoup some of his losses while helping businesses recover from the tragedy. His idea - using boats to salvage waterlogged equipment for businesses willing to pay for the service - earned him a trip to St. Louis.
″It’s perhaps going to save my business financially and provide service to other businesses that don’t have an alternative,″ he said. Hatfield said he won’t earn enough to make up for the loss of his house, which was lost to the flood.
The aid package totaled only $2.5 billion when Clinton introduced it July 14 in Des Moines, Iowa. It grew as the disaster worsened, and Congress, which passed the $5.7 billion aid package last week, may be asked for more as damages estimates climb.
The bill pays for repair of levees, highways and rail lines; temporary jobs in flood cleanup; individual loans of up to $1.5 million for small businesses; and grants for communities that need rebuilding.