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SW MN Counties receive FEMA Flood Aid

October 15, 2010

From the Marshall Independent, 15 October 2010:

Lyon, Lincoln and Murray Counties are among 21 southern Minnesota counties to be declared major disaster areas by the federal government this week, in response to flooding in late September. Area emergency management officials say this means affected counties, cities and townships will be able to apply for federal aid.

“It’s certainly going to take a big load off” for local counties and cities hit by flooding, said Lincoln County emergency manager Norm VanOverbeke.

Aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will go to state and local government and some non-profit agencies to repair or replace flood damage.

“People need to understand that they’re just going to put things back to pre-flood conditions,” not pay for improvements to infrastructure or property, said Lyon County emergency manager Tammy VanOverbeke. However,VanOverbeke said, counties may also be eligible for hazard mitigation money, which would go toward flood prevention measures.

Flood aid is not available to individuals, although Associated Press reports said FEMA is considering individual aid.

A total of 21 counties across the southern third of Minnesota were part of the disaster declaration, including Blue Earth, Cottonwood, Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, Mower, Murray, Olmsted, Pipestone, Rice, Rock, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Watonwan and Winona.

Area emergency managers said flood damage estimates for federal aid had to be divided into several categories, including debris cleanup, road and bridge damage, parks damage and emergency protective measures. In Lyon County, preliminary damage estimates presented to county commissioners earlier this month came to about $200,000. However, Tammy VanOverbeke said, the exact damage is likely to change as more detailed reports are made.

“We are finding more damage,” she said, especially debris and other flood damage revealed as river levels start to drop.

Norm VanOverbeke said Lincoln County estimated about $434,000 in flood damage, with about $200,000 accounted for by damage to county roads. Overall, he said, the estimated damage within the county was “pretty much split between debris cleanup, and roads and bridges.”

Murray County emergency manager Jim Reinert said Murray County’s threshold to qualify for federal aid was $30,000 in flood damage, while preliminary damage estimates from September’s flooding were closer to $60,000. The majority of that damage, Reinert said, was to roads and bridges.

Flooding in Murray County wasn’t as severe as it was in other parts of the region, Reinert said.

“We had some water that came up as we were inheriting it from everyone else,” he said, but not as much of the kind of washout damage caused by flooding rivers.

Still, Reinert said, the FEMA aid will be a help in repairing damage in Murray County.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty will convene a special legislative session on Monday regarding the flood aid, the Associated Press reported.

The next step for counties, area emergency managers said, is for FEMA to set up briefings with counties, cities and townships to apply for aid. That will likely happen after the state legislative session, Tammy VanOverbeke said.

Emergency managers said the aftereffects of September’s flooding could possibly lead to more flooding in the spring. Tammy VanOverbeke encouraged property owners to be aware of their risks, and to consider flood insurance, landscaping or other measures to protect their homes.

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