The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

July 17, 2014

Flood costs in state continue to climb

At least 51 of 87 counties reported damage

Minnesota communities are trying to bounce back from last month's flooding as damage estimates continue to rise.

The state's deputy director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Joe Kelly, said last month's excessive rainfall led to a unique disaster.

"It's across our whole state, and the communities and counties are all in different stages of recovery," he said.

More than 11 inches of rain was recorded at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in June, according to The Star Tribune.

Gov. Mark Dayton last week asked the Obama administration for a formal disaster declaration. He said a preliminary assessment of just eight counties estimated $10.8 million in damages.

At least 51 of the state's 87 counties have reported flood damage.

Residents of Waterville in Le Sueur County scrambled to pile sandbags against the rapidly rising water of two neighboring lakes. It's estimated the town sustained millions of dollars in damages after 20 percent of it was covered in water.

Waterville Mayor Stephen Mihalik said Minnesotans will likely remember this summer for a long time.

"Ultimately, we were lucky, he said. "Nobody got hurt or killed. We just have to recover and come back stronger than we were before."

Flash floods in southwestern Minnesota washed out roads, bridges and railroad tracks. They also damaged a power plant and a dam at Blue Mounds State Park.

On Wednesday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack designated Rock County a primary disaster zone. That's where storms also damaged about 100,000 acres of farmland. Under federal regulations, counties bordering the primary disaster zone also qualify, allowing farmers in Murray, Nobles and Pipestone counties to seek federal assistance.

Emergency assessment teams have already visited more than two dozen counties and are expected to continue next week.

"Minnesotans are a pretty resilient lot," Kelly said. "The weather is a fact of life for us up here and we tend to get back on our feet, try to clean things up and make things good as new."

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