FEMA officials arrive to assess damage

Published 10:51 am Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A team of Federal Emergency Management Agency officials arrived in Freeborn County Tuesday morning to survey damage from last week’s tornadoes and severe weather.

“Our team is looking at residences and dwellings to get a better idea of the extent of the damge,” FEMA agent James Fumbanks said.

Two different teams are surveying damages in Freeborn County Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday’s team was looking at small businesses, infrastructure and individual properties. Wednesday’s team will evaluate roads, public damage and more infrastructure.

Email newsletter signup

The two teams that will visit Freeborn County are part of a larger team that is visiting seven counties in Minnesota affected by tornadoes. The team comprises personnel from FEMA Region V, which serves Minnesota and five other states in the Midwest, the state’s emergency management agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The visit follows Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s declaration of a state of emergency in seven counties across the state, including Freeborn, Faribault and Steele counties.

“There were approximately 200 properties in the county affected by the tornadoes,” Gay Ruby said. “We can’t stop at all of them, but we are trying to stop at the hardest hit.”

Ruby works in external affairs with FEMA. She said after the team reviews their findings they will submit a report to Pawlenty. After reading the report if Pawlenty decides local and state government can’t provide enough aid for recovery then he could submit a request for aid from the president.

“If the request is approved then federal resources would become available,” Ruby said.

The team was trying to visit as many places as they could in one day so they couldn’t stay long at any properties. They were mostly looking closely at homes and talking with homeowners to see if their homes were insured. They were also asking whether the people could stay in their homes or if they had to find other housing.

Ruby said people in the county with any damage from Thursday’s storms are encouraged to call Freeborn County Emergency Management Director Mark Roche at 377-5221. The county is compiling a list of all properties with damage.

If federal resources become available, those could include the following: personnel, equipment, supplies, facilities, technical assistance necessary to protect public safety and health and restore essential services; temporary disaster housing assistance; low-interest loans for repair or replacement of real or personal property, as well as assistance for business owners; replacement grants to help meet serious disaster-related needs and expenses not met by insurance or other programs; and disaster umemployment assistance.

County updates

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners on Monday night ratified a local emergency declaration given last Thursday by Board Chairman Chris Shoff.

Kluever said Freeborn County assessors should be able to compile the monetary amount of damages across the county by Thursday.

One of the most pressing issues facing the county as of Tuesday is what people who have damaged or destroyed property should do with their debris.

Kluever said more and more people are calling the county asking this question.

Kluever encouraged people in these situations to work with local contractors and disposal companies like Waste Management and Thompson Sanitation and to burn properly.

He said it is still being evaluated what level the county will get involved in clean-up efforts.

The county’s hot line number can be reached at 379-2979.

Tornadoes’ effect on crops

For those farmers with crop damage from Thursday’s storms there’s not much time left to plant again, according to local farmers. If all debris were cleared from a field immediately, corn could be planted but at a large risk, and farmers who have already lost a crop this year probably won’t take that risk. If soybeans are in around the end of the month they would have a chance to fully mature, but many landowners haven’t had a chance to completely clear their field of debris.