The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced emergency assistance for 23 Minnesota counties that were damaged by flooding, high winds and tornadoes in May. There were at least five tornado touchdowns, including one with 120 mph winds in the small town of Forada, near Alexandria in Douglas County.
Douglas County Director of Emergency Management Julie Anderson joined All Things Considered Thursday to tell us how cleanup efforts are going and how federal funds could help.
What was the extent of the damage in your department?
Over 100 homes were destroyed, along with countless barns and other structures that were destroyed or damaged. And it wasn’t just the small town of Forada, which is surrounded by Hudson Township and was badly hit. The storm really got through a wide swath so we have other townships and lots of other people scattered across [the county] who face huge, huge repair bills.
Seems like it’s been so long since things may have returned to normal, but is the cleanup still going on? What does it take to come back from a damage like that?
We have landlords, renters and others who are really waiting for their insurance companies and contractors to do the work. It will therefore be a very, very long time before the work is really finished, and therefore the needs are great. And as you can imagine, people are tired and really looking to move on.
How much do you expect to see from FEMA and how will that help?
This FEMA Disaster Declaration relates only to what we call “critical infrastructure”. So that means the funds will be used to repair roads and culverts and defray the costs of clearing those roads of all those downed trees.
How will this money be disbursed?
So how does it work, we reach out right after a storm like this and talk to townships, cities and utilities and tell them to start monitoring and documenting all your costs. And then, once they submit an invoice for reimbursement, if they are eligible, they will be paid.
You mentioned how difficult these times have been. How is everyone in your area and how proud are you of everyone?
I am immensely proud. They really took the opportunity to help each other, whether it was going to their homes and helping each other physically or being there to support each other. The churches have been wonderful and have worked together. As a county, we created a few disaster funds that people donated to. And while this FEMA disaster declaration won’t go to individuals, we’ve worked to make sure we’ve left no stone unturned in trying to secure financial assistance for homeowners, renters, businesses and organizations. Douglas County nonprofit.