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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R)

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Area Flood Update #3

Thursday, September 30, 2010
Dear friends, First, a state website that is very helpful for flood recovery efforts: http://www.minnesotarecovers.org The flood emergency management phase is coming to an end in the flooded regions of Wabasha and Goodhue Counties. Although recovery efforts have been underway for days now in Pine Island and most of the rural Zumbro River communities, yesterday marked the first full day of flood recovery efforts in the cities of Zumbro Falls and Hammond. I joined Governor Pawlenty in Zumbro Falls yesterday a.m. as we were accompanied by Senator Dave Senjem, Representative Tim Kelly, state emergency management leaders, and Wabasha County leaders. The Governor brought a strong message of hope and pledge of the state's continued assistance throughout the recovery period for our flooded friends and neighbors. Wabasha County appears to be the hardest-hit portion of the 35-county flood incident area. The cities of Zumbro Falls and Hammond, as well as the rural areas of Jarrett, County Road 21, Ryan's Bay, the Ponderosa, and Mac's Place have extensive and acute flooding damage. Throughout Wabasha County, estimates are in the neighborhood of 300 homes that have received flood damage, while somewhere near 60% of those homes may be total losses. Additionally, the business districts in both Zumbro Falls and Hammond have been completely hammered by the flood. The banks of the Zumbro received massive erosion at Kellogg, endangering a number of homes when 40 feet of nearby homeowners' yards were swallowed by the flood. I also visited with homeowners yesterday in Pine Island, where somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 homes were flood damaged, with damage varying from water in basements to water over the main floor (extensive damage). The school athletic facilities received extensive damage, there's at least one road washout, and a trail bridge received flooding damage. City leaders are busy preparing reports for FEMA's public infrastructure assessment report. Last night, I toured Wanamingo with city staff and elected leaders. An unknown (smaller) number of homeowners in Wanamingo have received basement damage. The Wanamingo wastewater treatment plant received some damage, as did their city park. City leaders have completed their FEMA public infrastructure report. There are additional reports of slight damage in Zumbrota and Kenyon. The FEMA damage assessment teams are finishing up most of their work in Wabasha and Goodhue counties today. This field work will allow FEMA to compile more complete estimates and report those damage estimates and observations to their colleagues in Washington. The results of these assessments will be used to help determine the categories of disaster relief assistance that will be included in the federal disaster declaration, which will be issues for the mostly damaged sub-group of the 35 counties in the flood incident area. Due to the severity of flooding and the high cost to families and property in our area, there are expectations that Wabasha and Goodhue Counties will be among the first group of counties for which a federal declaration is made, with other counties being added to the declaration, subsequently. The best guess/hope is that we will receive the federal declaration tomorrow or Saturday. Keep tuned to the news to learn about when the declaration is made, and what types of relief the declaration will contain. As soon as the declaration is made, flooded property owners can expect to see FEMA personnel arrive in the area very quickly - LOTS of them. They will be wearing official FEMA blue clothing and jackets. FEMA workers carry with them ID badges that designate that they are federal emergency workers employed by the agency. There will also be disaster recovery centers deployed in each of the major affected areas of the flood zone. The governor initiated steps yesterday to expedite the development of earlier disaster recovery centers, so that flooded residents can have a point of contact with FEMA and state relief agencies. More information will be available regarding this soon. There is a large amount of help for our flooded friends and neighbors assembling. For flood victims that could use some help on their property - or for those not flooded, who would like to volunteer to help, a volunteer assistance hotline has been established. Call 800-543-7709. Buses are bringing volunteers out to flooded cities and homes from the Lions Park, in Mazeppa, where the volunteers are staging. Flooded residents are encouraged to use the clothing and supplies assistance being offered by friends and neighbors through donations. A collection area is set up in Mazeppa at 239 1st Avenue North. For more information, call the Mazeppa City Hall at 507-843-3687. Legislators are waiting to hear from the Governor on his decision to call the legislator into special session. He will call the session as soon as we have firm estimates of the levels of damage in different categories. I have been active in working with legislative staff to prepare a flood relief bill that will help our families and businesses recover from this tragedy. Please feel free to share any thoughts or suggestions you may have (my cell is 651-564-0638). Emergency management phone numbers: Wabasha County 651-565-3069 Goodhue County: 651-267-2640 Olmsted County: 507-285-8103 Again, please check out the Minnesota Recovers website: http://www.minnesotarecovers.org Please keep our flood-affected neighbors in your prayers. I'll be in touch soon. Steve.