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Third bout of flooding and cleanup takes toll on merchants

July 29, 2019
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In this Thursday, July 25, 2019 photo, Finders Keepers Antique Mall remains closed at Interstate 29 and Highway 2 following flooding in Percival, Iowa. (Kayla Wolf/Lincoln Journal Star via AP)
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In this Thursday, July 25, 2019 photo, Finders Keepers Antique Mall remains closed at Interstate 29 and Highway 2 following flooding in Percival, Iowa. (Kayla Wolf/Lincoln Journal Star via AP)

PERCIVAL, Iowa (AP) — A third bout of flooding and cleanup is taking a toll on people who operate some small businesses along Iowa Highway 2 in southwestern Iowa.

They heavily rely on north-south traffic from nearby Interstate 29 and on westbound travelers being able to cross a Missouri Bridge over to Nebraska.

The mercantile community first flooded in 2011. The businesses again were inundated and the roadways closed in mid-March after levees gave way. They were flooded again in late May, following heavy rains and the upstream water releases by the Army Corps of Engineers.

“It’s pretty discouraging,” said Kelly Wise of Atlantic, who, with his wife, Tammy, owns a Motel 6 along the highway a few miles south of Percival.

He told the Lincoln Journal Star that, after this year’s first flood, they cleaned up and started replacing first-floor furniture. After the second, he’s ready to cut his income by more than half by closing off the ground level and surviving on the income from the 25 rooms upstairs.

He and his wife already have suffered nearly $500,000 in damage, he said. And authorities have given him no reason to believe he’s protected from future floods.

“I don’t want to do this again,” he said. “I’m getting too old.”

Mark O’Brian bought an empty strip mall on the north side of Highway 2 late last year. He was searching for tenants or buyers and was close to selling to a church when the March flood hit. He cleaned up the property. It flooded again in late May.

“We firmly believe this could happen time and time again,” O’Brian said.

The flooding has taken too much away from Alicia Chrastil, she said.

It took her business, Finders Keepers Antique Mall, which offered antiques from 75 dealers.

She also said the flooding took away her future. The property was supposed to serve as her retirement account: It was valued at nearly $600,000 before the flooding. Now she’d be surprised if she could sell it for $25,000, she said.

She doesn’t see herself returning to Highway 2.

“You can get flooded once,” she said. “You can get flooded twice. The third time, I’m out.”

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