Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Sees Firsthand `Life Story' of Flood

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Sees Firsthand `Life Story' of Flood

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton flew by helicopter above this flooded ghost town Tuesday and pledged almost half a billion dollars to help Red River victims "in the fight of their lives."

Clinton promised an all-out federal effort to restore this flooded flat land region, much like the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II.

"Every one of those little houses is another life story," he said, staring down at icy, muddy floodwater lapping at rooftops. "It's just . . ." He trailed off, shaking his head, at a loss for words. With the stench of sewage hanging in the air, Clinton saw caramel-colored water spread as far as he could see - covering houses to the gutters, trees to the tiniest, highest limbs, bridges, businesses, cars, churches and schools. Ankle-deep in water, utility company workers waved at Marine One from the all-but-deserted town. Heavy winter snow and a quick spring thaw swelled the Red River, which divides North Dakota from Minnesota. In a silent, unstoppable surge, 80 percent of Grand Forks and virtually all of neighboring East Grand Forks, Minn., slipped beneath the river. Clinton brought with him the two assets he has made the hallmarks of his crisis management style - the reassuring, feel-your-pain empathy that provided a psychic lift for a community still reeling from multiple calamities and an open federal checkbook to help speed along the physical reconstruction. With thousands homeless and the area's infrastructure destroyed, Clinton said to the cheers of thousands of dislocated residents at the Grand Force Air Force Base hangar that has become their temporary home that he would ask Congress for $488 million in flood assistance for the Dakotas and Minnesota. That includes the $259 million he already had requested. And, in a rare move, he ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay 100 percent of the immediate emergency work; traditionally the government pays 75 percent. "People here are giving 100 percent, and we should, too," Clinton said. The traditional 75 percent match is likely to be required for expenses down the road. Clinton also added 18 Minnesota and 53 South Dakota counties to the long list of areas eligible for aid. …

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