FEMA announces emergency aid for 23 counties damaged in May storm

A fallen down tree crushing a house.
A large tree was uprooted and fell through Mike GroveÕs property in Forada, Minn. during a tornado that ravaged the area on May 30. Parts of the tree went all the way down to the basement.
Jackson Forderer for MPR News

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has announced emergency aid for 23 Minnesota counties that sustained a damage from flooding, heavy winds and tornadoes in May. There were at least five tornado touchdowns, including one with 120 mph winds in the tiny town of Forada, near Alexandria in Douglas County.

Douglas County Emergency Management Director Julie Anderson joined All Things Considered Thursday to tell us how the cleanup effort is going and how the federal funds might help.

What was the extent of the damage in your county?

More than 100 homes have been destroyed, along with countless barns and other structures that were destroyed or damaged. And it was not only the tiny town of Forada, which is surrounded by Hudson Township and was heavily impacted. The storm really went across a wide swath, so we have other townships and many other people scattered throughout [the county] that are facing huge, huge repair bills.

It feels like so long ago that things may be back to normal, but is cleanup still happening? What does it take to come back from damage like that?

We have homeowners, renters and others who really are waiting on their insurance companies and contractors to do the work. So it will be a long, long time before the work really is finished, and so the needs are great. And as you might imagine, folks are tired and really looking to move forward.

How much do you expect to see from FEMA and how will it help?

This FEMA disaster declaration is only for what we call "critical infrastructure.” So that means the funds will go to repair the roads and the culverts, and pay for the cost to clear those roads of all those downed trees. It does not go to individuals.

How will that money be disbursed?

So how it works is, we reach out right after a storm like this and talk to the townships, cities and utilities and tell them start monitoring and documenting all of your costs. And then once they submit an invoice for reimbursement, if it is eligible, then they will be paid.

You mentioned how challenging these times have been. How is everybody doing in your area, and how proud are you of everybody?

I'm immensely proud. They have really risen to the occasion to help one another, whether that means going to their home and physically helping, or being there for support. The churches have been wonderful and working together. As a county, we've had a couple of disaster funds set up that people have been donating to. And while this FEMA disaster declaration won't go to individuals, we've been working to make sure we've left no stone unturned to try to get some financial assistance for the homeowners, renters, businesses and nonprofits in Douglas County.

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