ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In a letter to President Obama, Gov. Tim Pawlenty Friday requested a federal disaster declaration for the State of Minnesota as a result of flooding caused by severe storms that began on Sept. 22 in southern Minnesota.
Preliminary assessments indicate a total of $64.1 million in damage, $44.9 million of which was to public infrastructure.
The Governor is requesting federal individual assistance for Blue Earth, Dodge, Faribault, Goodhue, Martin, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, and Watonwan counties. FEMA's Individuals and Households Program (IHP) helps homeowners and renters affected by a disaster with housing needs and necessary expenses.
Public assistance is requested for Blue Earth, Cottonwood, Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, Mower, Murray, Olmsted, Pipestone, Rice, Rock, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Watonwan, and Winona counties. FEMA's Public Assistance Grant Program provides assistance for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and the repair, replacement, or restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly owned facilities.
Additional counties will be added to the request as the damage assessment process continues.
"When disaster strikes in Minnesota, neighbors help neighbors. In the same way, all levels of government are working together to help communities recover and rebuild. I'm hopeful the federal government will act quickly to help Minnesota communities with the recovery process before winter is upon us," Governor Pawlenty said.
Gov. Pawlenty declared a State of Emergency on Sept. 23 as heavy rains - more than 10 inches in less than 24 hours in some communities - fell on saturated ground and caused flooding across the southern third of Minnesota affecting 35 counties.
A total of 17 counties and 30 cities declared local emergencies. On September 24, the Governor requested joint federal-state preliminary damage assessments be conducted.
In his letter, Gov. Pawlenty pointed to preliminary damage estimates that indicate 609 dwellings were affected across the region. Of those, 80 were destroyed, rendering them permanently uninhabitable; 101 suffered major damage, meaning that extensive repairs are needed to make the home habitable; and 280 homes received minor damage. As the water recedes and more areas become accessible, these numbers will likely increase.
Hundreds of federal, state, county, city, and township roads and highways were damaged, including the city of Oronoco that experienced a washout on both ends of a major bridge to the city.
Other public infrastructure damage includes wastewater treatment plants, community centers, city buildings, state and local parks, schools, and athletic fields. Damage and resulting interruptions to cities' electrical and gas infrastructures were widespread. Propane tanks were ripped from their moorings and displaced. Residents of two nursing homes were evacuated to family or other facilities.
If granted, a federal disaster declaration will make designated counties eligible for a range of federal disaster programs that could include disaster unemployment assistance, individual and household assistance, small business disaster loans, crisis counseling, and low-interest loans for affected farmers.
Gov. Pawlenty announced this week that he will call a special legislative session in October to address the state's share of the aid package. Under federal guidelines, FEMA will pay 75 percent of eligible expenses; the state is responsible for the remaining 25 percent.
To offer help to flood victims, call the United Way 24-hour state-wide community resource number at 2-1-1 or 1-800-543-7709.
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