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Damage estimates increase in southwest Minnesota as floodwaters rise

A township road covered by the Des Moines River south of Currie in Murray County in southwest Minnesota. The crest on the Des Moines River hasn't been reached yet as of Friday, July 6. Tim Middagh / Forum News Service

WORTHINGTON — Gov. Mark Dayton's executive order declaring a state of emergency because of flooding and torrential rains for 36 Minnesota counties, including six counties in southwest Minnesota, may be a prelude to getting federal disaster aid.

The declaration directs state agencies to begin conducting preliminary damage assessments.

As of Friday, July 6, Nobles County Emergency Management Director Joyce Jacobs said the county has tabulated almost a half million dollars in damage from rain storms since June 20.

If—more likely when—counties record enough damage to meet the state's threshold of $7.7 million, it becomes a federal disaster, setting in motion a reimbursement process through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

If the threshold isn't met, the state only reimburses 75 percent of the costs incurred by cities, townships, counties and other government entities. FEMA, on the other hand, provides 100 percent reimbursement.

While the FEMA declaration brings with it more paperwork and documentation, Jacobs said the extra work is worth it for agencies to get 100 percent reimbursement.

The window for reportable damage from the storms began June 9, and remains open as flooding is ongoing.

"They won't close the window until they're pretty sure the damage is done being created," Jacobs said.

Damage in southwest Minnesota, the worst-hit area so far, includes washed out township and county roads, crop losses, flooded homes and damaged bridges, culverts, railroad tracks, sewer and lagoon systems, parks and bike paths.

As an example, Jacobs said 17 of 20 townships in Nobles County reported damage, and all are guessing on the costs at this point as they wait for water to recede to get a true picture of the damages.

Some other estimates of damage so far are about $407,000 in Jackson County, $122,000 in Cottonwood County and $280,000 in Rock County.

And damages could triple, for example, in Cottonwood County, as the Des Moines River, with headwaters at Lake Shetek near Slayton, still hasn't crested.

"The river is rising," Cottonwood County Emergency Management Director Paul Johnson said, noting a nearly one-foot increase between Thursday and Friday. "It's possible we could see another foot in talking to the weather service.

"We're kind of in the middle of this yet here," he added. "I thought it was done, but not with what happened in Murray County."

It's been an ongoing battle, last Sunday, sandbaggers spent seven hours trying to keep floodwaters from reaching two Jackson businesses and the softball fields as the Des Moines River swelled.

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