Officials do not expect the Missouri River to fully return to its banks until October. As it recedes farmers are seeing their fields for the first time since June and what they are finding is discouraging. Sand dunes, strange debris and deep gouges the floodwaters carved into their once-fertile land are the scars of flooding. The soil quality has also been diminished because the floodwaters killed off many of the microbes that help crops grow and compacted the soil.
Farmland along the Missouri River in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri may be out of production for at least a year. As an example of the damage left behind, Scott Olson, a farmer near Tekamah, Neb., found a new ditch that's about 300 feet wide, one-quarter mile long, and more than 15 feet deep.
Clarke McGrath, agronomist with the Iowa department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, says any time water stands on a field for more than a couple days the soil starts to stagnate because of the lost microbes and the weight of the water. McGrath advises that farmers may need to allow weeds to grow on the land or plant a cover crop such as winter wheat to get roots back in the soil and help microbes grow. Without doing that, there's a risk that whatever crop is planted on the land won't perform well.
The Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency warns that a critical flood insurance deadline is approaching for many policy holders whose properties were damaged as a result of this year's flooding along the Missouri River. For some, the deadline could be as early as this Thursday, September 29.
The first step for flood insurance policy holders is to call their insurance agent to open a claim for the flood damage and provide current contact information so they may be reached as necessary throughout the process. If a claimant is unsure whether or not the "Proof of Loss" was properly submitted, they should contact their insurance agent in order to meet the 120-day deadline.
FEMA Region VII Administrator Beth Freeman says they're concerned people who have not been able to get in to see their damage for weeks or months may not know they need to do both of these - file their claim and make sure the "Proof of Loss" documentation is submitted within this 120-day window.
A local insurance agent is the best person to provide specific information about individual flood insurance policies and claims, but the National Flood Insurance Program's Call Center may be reached toll free at 1-800-427-4661.