ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty is asking President Barack Obama for an expedited disaster declaration for flooded northwestern Minnesota counties.
The governor sent a letter to the president today seeking the declaration, which would make the Red River Valley region eligible for federal disaster assistance programs.
The state is stepping up its assistance as local communities along the Red River fight rising floodwater.
After a meeting called to extend a state emergency declaration for seven northwestern Minnesota counties, Pawlenty said he expects to activate more National Guard soldiers in the coming days. That will push the total number of soldiers on the ground to around 400.
"We're putting everything we've got into the flood fight in northwestern Minnesota," Pawlenty told reporters.
Pawlenty said he talked with officials in Breckenridge on Tuesday and Moorhead today. The governor visited the region earlier this week and said he will travel there again in the coming days.
State agencies are expanding their Red River Valley flood response.
Officials from a variety of agencies are part of a fully activated Emergency Operations Center in downtown St. Paul. The center is coordinating state assistance to flooded areas of northwestern Minnesota.
The National Guard, State Patrol and Health, Agriculture, Transportation and Natural Resources departments are among those taking part in increased state involvement.
The operation center is coordinating state response to flooded communities' request for equipment, including sandbags, generators and helicopters.
"They continue to come in on an hourly basis," Public Safety official Dennis Smith said of local requests. All of the 52 requests filed so far have been met as of early Wednesday afternoon, he added.
Also today, a combination of flooding and blowing snow prompted the state Transportation Department to close portions of at least five northwestern Minnesota highways. That includes the eastbound Interstate 94 exit ramp in Moorhead.
The agency warned drivers that fluctuating water levels make it difficult to predict whether water will flood a roadway.