Gov. Pawlenty tours Albert Lea area

Published 3:16 pm Friday, June 18, 2010

Gov. Tim Pawlenty expressed his sympathies for families affected by the tornadoes and said that he knows Minnesotans are strong and resilient. He also said he knows Minnesotans will be able to rebuild.

“We want to recognize the tragic loss of fellow Minnesotans and extend our thoughts and prayers to their families,” Pawlenty said.

Pawlenty toured the tornado-ravaged Albert Lea area in a State Patrol helicopter on Friday and met with local officials before speaking to the press at the Freeborn County Courthouse.

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He said he can’t imagine what those families are going through who have lost loved ones or their homes. Pawlenty then said it’s important to make sure any recovery response is focused on public safety. That includes everyone being safe around power lines and debris.

“This is another reflection of how people in Freeborn County pull together and of neighbors helping neighbors,” Pawlenty said.
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He said it was important that there’s cooperation between governments and other agencies like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

“Minnesotans are so good-hearted,” Pawlenty said. “These homes will be rebuilt.”

He has activated state agencies to start looking at property damages, and then an application will be sent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He said they usually respond within a week or two with help. Pawlenty said the first step for most homeowners will be to check with their insurance agencies, and most homeowner policies cover damage from tornadoes.

“We’re proud of the response throughout Minnesota,” Pawlenty said. “We have steady, seasoned hands dealing with this.”

Congressman Tim Walz also spoke about the tragedy Friday at the Freeborn County Courthouse, and expressed his sympathies with those affected.

“The state will make a response,” Walz said. “Bureaucratic hurdles will be cut down.”

State Rep. Robin Brown, also at the courthouse, has not been able to see any of the homes destroyed by tornadoes but said she has a tour set up for Monday.

“It’s so important to let emergency workers do their job,” Brown said. “I’m very interested in seeing the damage across the district.”

She said she wanted to see any damage herself so that she would know what residents were dealing with in case she needs to ask the state or federal government for money or aid. Albert Lea Mayor Mike Murtaugh also wanted to thank local response agencies for their quick and thorough response to the storms on Thursday.

“I want to thank all the folks here for their assistance,” Murtaugh said.

He said he was glad to see that Albert Lea unscathed and that large numbers of people weren’t harmed, but the devastation seen in the country was significant and unfortunate. Pawlenty said that recovery work has already started and will continue on until all homes are rebuilt.

“We want to make people feel supported in the best way we can,” Pawlenty said.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty arrived in Albert Lea Friday to assess damages, meet local officials and take questions from the news media.

The governor arrived at the Albert Lea Municipal Airport at 2:30 p.m. Friday, flying straight from a tour of tornado damages in the Wadena area. He was slated to meet the media at 4 p.m.

Pawlenty flew to Albert Lea in an airplane belonging to the Minnesota Department of Transportation but rode in a Minnesota State Patrol helicopter.