Weather Forecast


Minnesota River communities assess flood damage

MONTEVIDEO -- As floodwaters in the upper Minnesota River basin recede, the affected counties and cities are beginning to assess the damage left behind.

Preliminary, admittedly rough assessments indicate that Chippewa, Lac qui Parle and Yellow Medicine counties will qualify for emergency disaster aid, if the president declares the state a disaster area. A presidential declaration would mean that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would cover 75 percent of the reported damages.

Montevideo has been the hardest hit by the flood of 2011. City Manager Steve Jones said the community experienced an estimated $200,000 to $250,000 in flood damages to report to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The numbers reflect only an estimate of public damages. There is no estimate of how much damage occurred to homes and other private property.

Ten years ago, the same level of water would easily have made this a $1 million flood for the city, Jones noted. Mitigation efforts in past years have gone a long way toward reducing damage.

Jones cautioned that floodwaters still cover roads and other public infrastructure, making it impossible to accurately calculate the damage.

The city will get a better idea of actual damages in a week or two, and it could easily be greater than now calculated.

Mitigation efforts proved their worth downstream in Granite Falls too. An initial estimate for FEMA places the damages to this point in the neighborhood of $70,000, according to City Manager Bill Lavin.

Townships and counties have lots of roads to repair and culverts to replace following the flood. Michelle Gatz, emergency management director for Yellow Medicine County, said the damage is roughly calculated at this point at over $100,000. There remain roads under water, so it is impossible to know the full extent of damage.

Damages in Chippewa County could be in the range of $500,000. That estimate includes the damages and costs for flood preparations that took place in both Montevideo and Clara City, according to Marv Garbe, Chippewa County emergency management director.

Both communities invested in flood protection for water levels higher than occurred. "If it wouldn't have been for the slow thaw, all of that planning would have been needed,'' Garbe said.

Townships in Chippewa County saw an estimated $15,000 to $20,000 of the total damage.

Lac qui Parle County experienced an estimated $260,000 worth of damage, according to John Maatz, emergency management director. He too cautioned that final numbers won't be known until all of the water has receded and work can get underway.

Swift County may not qualify for disaster assistance. At this point about $20,000 worth of damage has been calculated, most of that in the city of Benson, said Bill McGeary, emergency management director. The county must show more than $39,000 worth of damage to qualify for FEMA funding.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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