Dear friends, Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Although estimates have not yet been completed, the losses due to the flooding in Wabasha and Goodhue Counties are massive. Losses come in many forms: financial asset losses, emotional losses, opportunity losses, health losses, and what I would categorize as temporary loss of community. The floodwaters have receded in these two counties and many flood victims have begun the arduous and emotionally taxing process of assessing their damages and cleaning out the damaged items, flooring, walls, and fixtures in their homes and businesses.
On Sunday, I joined Governor Pawlenty as we surveyed the flood damage Hammond and Zumbro Falls. We offered reassurance to community leaders that Minnesotans will be out in force to help the people of our district recover. The Governor will be calling a one-day special session of the legislature that will convene on a yet to be determined date, between October 7th and 12th. This session will focus on the development of a flood relief package aimed at helping offset the financial losses to homes, businesses, and public infrastructure.
The cities of Zumbro Falls and Hammond have been especially hit hard, with early estimates that approximately two thirds of the homes and business structures are completely uninhabitable in each community. Each of these buildings will likely be deemed total losses. I have spent the past 4 days helping friends living on Wabasha County Road 21 clean out their flood damaged home and conducting onsite visits with several dozen flooded constituents, focusing on those people who are in the most remote areas – away from the center of activity around the cities of Hammond, Zumbro Falls, and Pine Island. I visited yesterday with homeowners in Jarrett (near Millville) and along other portions of Wabasha County Road 11. Their situations are the same – most appear to be total losses.
Now that the water has receded, and that most have been (or soon will be) allowed back into their flooded homes and businesses, the recovery work begins. FEMA arrived yesterday and is on the ground in our counties today, conducting damage surveys of the region. While these folks will not visit every home and business at this point, their aim is to gain an estimate of the types and amount of damage that has been incurred upon infrastructure, homes, and businesses. This survey will hopefully be completed today or tomorrow and the surveyors will report to their colleagues in Washington, characterizing the types and amounts of loss. Days later, we can expect to receive the federal disaster declaration and will then understand which components of assistance the federal relief package will contain. No later than the issuance of the federal disaster by the federal government, we can expect to see local FEMA operations centers deployed into our communities. These FEMA centers will become the communication point for flooded families and business owners to access the relief offered through the federal package. They will also likely serve as the host to state flood relief teams who will be positioned to distribute information, take application, and offer assistance related to the state flood relief package that we will pass out of the legislature in early October.
In addition to financial flood relief aid, flooded families can also expect to see a large wave of volunteers descending upon the area from all over Minnesota – and from other states. I have already heard from some of the churches that make it part of their mission to go from disaster to disaster to provide expert help, equipment, tools, and supplies for cleaning up flooded buildings. Leaders in those cities that were flooded in the 2007 flood in Winona County have been contacting me about their intent to mobilize people. Both groups are waiting for the signal from emergency management personnel. That will happen soon.
If you know of a family that needs a place to stay over the weeks ahead, Woodland Camp, which is located south of Zumbro Falls, has indicated that they have cabin space available and would like to offer families in need a place to stay. Owners Merl and Anna Mae Norman can be contacted at (507) 753-2987.
I am writing and will continue to write these email updates for the benefit of flooded families and business owners throughout our region. Please help in distributing this information to any flooded families that you may know as they likely do not have access to email at this time. If there are flooded families that have not received visits or communication from law enforcement or emergency management staff, please call the emergency management numbers in your respective county and bring it to their attention:
Wabasha County 651-565-3069
Goodhue County: 651-267-2640
Olmsted County: 507-285-8103
Please keep our flood-affected neighbors in your prayers.