The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 26, 2013

Wells cleans up, tallies damage from wind, rain

FEMA may help towns cover costs

By Dan Linehan
dlinehan@mankatofreepress.com

---- — It's all over but the paperwork.

After a June 12 windstorm and perhaps 8 inches of rain last weekend, the city of Wells has picked up its storm debris and repaired its power lines.

Now, they're wondering if the storms will trigger county and state thresholds for federal assistance. Area cities and counties will also need a disaster declaration before they can be reimbursed for their costs.

Representatives from Rep. Tim Walz's office visited Wells Wednesday to offer help in applying for that assistance.

Though federal assistance is limited to public infrastructure, it appears that dozens of basements in Wells and other area cities have been flooded.

Keith Anderson, manager of South Central Mutual Insurance Company in Blue Earth, said he's a smaller insurer, but that every one of their customers in Wells had some damage.

“Water seeks its path of least resistance, and that was coming up in the basement,” he said.

There are no rivers or streams running through Wells, so few residents have flood insurance, he said.

Anderson said his customers have close to $1 million in damage from the storms. The last flooding of this magnitude happened in the summer of 2010, he said.

The first jab in the one-two punch fell on June 12, when a windstorm bent fences and uprooted trees, said Mike Pyzick, interim streets superintendent.

Then, last Friday and Saturday, perhaps 8 inches of rain fell, overwhelming the city's storm sewers and causing a sinkhole. At one point, a vehicle was floating in the water.

“It's been a long 10 days,” he said.

The Salvation Army dropped off cleanup kits at Wells City Hall — a mop, squeegee, gloves, bleach, that sort of thing — but they have all been claimed. The city is expecting a second shipment of the supplies.

Three things have to happen before the cities can be reimbursed for 75 percent of their storm expenses.

First, a disaster declaration must be made. Second, the county must have sustained about $50,000 in damage to public infrastructure, which is most likely the case.

Finally, the state must have sustained $7.27 million in public damage. Whether this will be met will depend on the area covered — if the Twin Cities are included it probably will — and on the window for damages. In other words, the National Weather Service will have to decide if the storm system was just one day, a few days or longer.

Storm fatigue was apparent.

“We've had a couple of these 100-year storms in the last five or six years,” Police Chief James Ratelle said.

But it's also taught officials the ropes, Mayor Ron Gaines said.

He thanked Shawn Schloesser, a Walz field representative, but told him the city didn't really need any assistance. Well, they had one request.

“Eighty-two and dry would be perfect.”