Dayton declares emergency in southern Minnesota

Published 12:05 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2016

By Sam Wilmes and Sarah Stultz

Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday signed an executive order proclaiming a state of peacetime emergency for areas of southern Minnesota affected by significant rainfalls last week.

Those rains, which began Sept. 21, have caused significant flooding and damage to public infrastructure and private property in the area.

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Effected counties covered by the governor’s order are Anoka, Blue Earth, Cottonwood, Dodge, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Hennepin, Houston, Le Sueur, Mower, Nicollet, Olmsted, Ramsey, Rice, Scott, Sibley, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Washington and Winona. Damage to infrastructure in Freeborn County alone was estimated at more than $1 million as of Tuesday morning.

The order directs the Department of Public Safety, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, along with all other state agencies, to continue providing assistance and support to affected communities.

Freeborn County Administrator John Kluever said Dayton will review the request and could send it to the federal government. If a disaster declaration is made at the federal level, federal funds could be authorized for flood cleanup.

He said the request is being made because damage in Freeborn County and surrounding counties was reported to Homeland Security, noting his belief that FEMA funding will be made available for Freeborn County.

It is unknown when a decision will be made on the request.

District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, said she was thankful for the governor’s quick action to ensure the area has access to resources to coordinate disaster response and cleanup.

“My heart goes out to the homeowners, businesses and farmers who have been impacted by the flooding,” Bennett said.

Individual assessment teams began assessing damage Tuesday.

At that time, Kluever said more than 160 residential properties had damage in the county.

Water levels continued to drop on Fountain Lake, though they are still about 1 1/2 feet above normal elevations, according to county officials. Albert Lea Lake water levels decreased 4 inches at the dam, 2.1 inches at Frank Hall Park and 2.6 inches along East Main Street.

Albert Lea Lake is still about 5 feet higher than normal elevation.

Jerad Stricker, conservation technician with the Shell Rock River Watershed District said the Shell Rock River at Glenville was at 1,212 feet above sea level on Tuesday. During the drought of 2012, the level was about 1,205 feet above sea level. He said the river had likely already come down at least a foot.

According to a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources river gauging station in Gordonsville, the Shell Rock River was flowing at over 10 times its normal volume at that point.

A portion of East Main Street, the intersection of Pearl Street and Elizabeth Avenue and a road in Frank Hall Park, which goes to the Humane Society of Freeborn County and boat landing, remained closed Tuesday.

The Albert Lea Transfer Station will be open from 3 to 7 p.m. today, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday to accept flood-damaged debris.

A press release warned residents to make sure contractors are licensed and reputable.

“It is not uncommon to have individuals that are less than reputable approach homeowners after events like this looking to take advantage of both the event and homeowner,” the release stated.

People are encouraged to contact a United Way hotline at 800-543-7709 if they have experienced any flood-related damages. Be ready to provide name, address, phone number, number of people in the home, what was damaged and the approximate value of the damage. The information will aid county officials in assessing damages.

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