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Emergency agencies in Minnesota hit flooding battle hard

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News Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

ST. PAUL -- The first request came in Thursday: 50,000 sandbags were needed in northwestern Minnesota's Clay County and Oakport Township.

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In the days since, state officials received pleas for dozens of electric generators, boats, water pumps and more than 1 million sandbags from communities along the flooding Red River.

State agencies have provided nearly all of the equipment and staffing sought and Public Safety Department officials were ready Monday to activate a full-blown emergency operations center in St. Paul to help coordinate state and federal flood assistance.

"Any disaster, any emergency is a local event," said Doug Neville, a Public Safety Department information officer. "Our job is really to be here when that local agency, whether it's a city or a county, becomes overwhelmed or they don't have all the stuff they need."

By noon Monday all but one of the 19 requests by flood-threatened communities to the state emergency center had been met. Sandbags and equipment were transported to holding stations in Crookston and the Moorhead area.

Full activation of the state emergency operations center in downtown St. Paul would bring together more than 100 people from 24 to 30 state and federal agencies and volunteer organization. Activation could take only 30 minutes.

"Generally in situations like this there is a full activation," Neville said.

There already are state workers on the ground in flooded areas, Neville said, and Minnesota and North Dakota emergency management officials are talking frequently.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty toured Moorhead and Breckenridge on Monday with state emergency management and National Guard leaders.

Lawmakers from the area said they are monitoring rising floodwaters and expect that the Legislature will need to pass flood cleanup funding later this spring.

By Monday afternoon a total of 300 Moorhead-based National Guard members were dispatched to help with flood relief. Two-hundred were activated Sunday, another 100 Monday, National Guard Cap. Randy Belden said.

Soldiers are being sent to Breckenridge and Moorhead to monitor traffic, patrol dikes and prepare for other flood-related activity. Guard members also have transported heavy equipment, including vehicles and generators, to the flooded areas.

Belden, who responded to the Red River floods of 1997 and 2006, said there are more than enough Guard members ready to assist if more help is needed.

"Flooding is part of Minnesota and the Minnesota National Guard is always prepared to react to that situation," Belden said.

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