Minnesota federal flood disaster likely, but homeowners in question

Eide

By Don Davis

Local governments across Minnesota and state agencies should receive federal aid to recover from widespread flooding last month, but it is not so clear where homeowners stand.

Commissioner Mary Tingerthal of the Minnesota Housing Finance Authority said Tuesday that her office has received relatively few reports of home damage, despite about 40 of the state’s 87 counties reporting flooding problems. However, Gov. Mark Dayton said he expects homeowners to report in as floodwaters recede.

Tingerthal suggested that homeowners document any damage: “photographs, photographs, photographs.”

She said they should first check with their insurance agents, even if they have heard their damage would not be covered. If it is not covered, the Small Business Administration may come to Minnesota to accept applications for federal aid. And if all else fails, the state has some emergency money available.

There have been no federal promises about homeowner aid, although state and local governments are all but assured some help.

Most home damage has been water in basements.

Until disaster service centers are set up, state officials suggest Minnesotans with questions should contact their county emergency management directors.

Tingerthal’s comments came as Dayton and key aides briefed reporters on floods.

In most of the state, waters are receding. However, some northern waters such as Lake of the Woods are not expected to crest until well into July.

“This dry weather has been a Godsend,” Dayton said, although it began raining outside his St. Paul office shortly after he spoke those words.

In general, Minnesota forecasts for this week are drier than they have been for weeks.

A few counties so far have reported $32 million worth of public facilities damage, things such as roads and sewage treatment plants. If verified during a process that started Tuesday, Minnesota easily will top the $7.3 million needed for federal financial assistance that would go to state and local governments.

Dayton said it is too early to know if he will need to call a special legislative session to provide the 25 percent of flood recovery costs that Washington would not send to local governments. He said the state has $3 million available, but other funds might be found or officials may opt to wait until the 2015 Legislature convenes in January when full damage costs are known.

Federal, state and local officials surveyed damage in Nobles, Rock and Jackson counties Tuesday and plan to wrap up work in Rock today, and move on to Renville. State Emergency Management Director Kris Eide said she hopes the survey can continue in the Twin Cities area next week.

More costly damage is expected in the Twin Cities, Eide said, because of the dense population and so much infrastructure is located there. Carver County alone has reported more than $9 million in damage.

In southwest Minnesota, Tuesday’s survey showed Rock County has $3 million in damage, Nobles $700,000 and Jackson $150,000.

Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson said 80 percent to 90 percent of crop damage probably is covered by federal crop insurance. However, he added, farmers will not know how much they will receive until prices are set at harvest time.

Many other farm loses should be covered by regular insurance, the commissioner added.

While it is not known how many homes have been damaged, Dayton reported that 2,000 Minnesotans flooded the Commerce Department insurance hotline with questions. He said some insurance companies blame state law on lack of coverage from mudslides, but he said no law forbids that.

Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle said most state roads already are repaired or are well on the way. A few in more severely flooded areas may not reopen until Labor Day, he said.

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