State, federal officials to assess damage from storms in 50 counties

Published 7:55 pm Friday, May 3, 2019

Local, state and federal officials will begin preliminary damage assessments in 50 counties in Minnesota next week following severe weather and flooding in March and April.

The assessments will document eligible damages for Gov. Tim Walz to include to request a major presidential disaster declaration for public assistance. Freeborn, Mower, Steele, Waseca and Faribault counties are included in the counties that will complete assessments.

The process will begin Tuesday and will likely take several weeks, according to a press release. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Homeland Security and Emergency Management division will join the Federal Emergency Management Agency to conduct the assessments.

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Freeborn County Emergency Management Director Rich Hall said officials will meet at the highway shop on May 13 for the county’s assessment.

In a letter to the White House last month, Walz informed President Donald Trump of the looming need for federal disaster relief.

Homeland Security and Emergency Management submitted the request for preliminary damage assessments, which included damages from snowmelt flooding, rain-induced flooding and a snowstorm with ice and high winds. Damage estimates exceed $32 million.

These estimates include damages to public property and infrastructure, including bridges, roads, parks and utilities, along with public safety protective measures taken during that time frame. It does not include damages to private property such as homes and businesses.

Homeland Security and Emergency Management FEMA will view the damage and collect the cost estimates from county officials. They also review local emergency response records and compile totals for all affected counties. If the damage exceeds the threshold of $7.9 million statewide, the process continues.

Homeland Security and Emergency Management then prepares a letter for the governor to sign, documenting factors that determine severity, magnitude and impact from the events, and Walz submits that letter to the president through FEMA.

The president is the only one with authority to grant a presidential disaster declaration. If assistance is approved, Homeland Security and Emergency Management staff work in partnership with FEMA to assist counties in applying for funds.