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High waters in the heartland

HEARTS go out to the thousands of people throughout the Midwest and South Central states who have been facing the ravages of severe flooding over this past week. In Oklahoma, where waters rose high enough to float rail cars off their tracks, Gov. George Nigh has called the flooding the worst in the history of his state. And an Illinois emergency agency spokesman called the flooding the worst his state has ever seen, in terms of monetary cost.

Similar, if less severe, reports came from Missouri, Kansas, Texas, and elsewhere. Homes have been damaged or destroyed; crops ready for harvesting are in danger in sodden fields; and newly sown winter wheat is being washed away.

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Such episodes point to the continuing need for wisdom in building in areas subject to flooding; for civil defense and other forms of emergency preparedness -- and for willingness to evacuate in a hurry if need be.

A drugstore clerk in Bixby, Okla., who had survived the Johnstown, Pa., flood -- the one in 1977 -- was one of the thousands who had to seek shelter and trust that her home would be there when she returned. But she did not hesitate. ``I just got out,'' she said. ``I know what a flood can do.''

It is doubly unfortunate that this flooding is hitting areas already struggling with the agricultural recession, the oil slump, or both.

Still, given the resilience and hardiness of the people of the heartland, let us trust that they will be able to meet this latest challenge as well.

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