FEMA touring 4 Minnesota counties Tuesday; rivers slowly receding


Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are in Minnesota Tuesday to assess damage from recent flooding to determine if the state will qualify for federal aid.

FEMA will visit four counties Tuesday, including Rock, Nobles, Jackson and Renville, KEYC reports. Officials are expected to tour the Twin Cities next week, once flood waters have receded.

To qualify for federal aid, there must be at least $7.3 million in damage to public infrastructure, like roads and bridges. Cleanup costs, including removing silt from roads, along with overtime costs for emergency personnel will also be factored in, the Pioneer Press reports.

FEMA's assessment, which will take a little more than a week, must be done before Gov. Mark Dayton can submit a presidential disaster request, KEYC notes. Once the state qualifies, each affected county can apply for aid individually, reports say.

While in Minnesota, President Barack Obama pledged help in the state's flood recovery.

Heavy, sustained storms in recent weeks have caused millions of dollars in public and private property damage throughout the state, which has Dayton and Sen. Amy Klobuchar confident the state will qualify for federal aid.

Klobuchar has called this year's flooding "unprecedented" saying, "We've never quite seen anything – for decades – where the entire state experienced some type of flooding," the Pioneer Press reports.

The National Weather Service said Monday that 2014 is the wettest year on record so far and the month of June 2014 was perhaps the wettest June on record for many Minnesota communities.

The wet weather raised water levels to heights that haven't been seen in years.

Flood waters recede

Flood waters have started to recede throughout the state – some communities are seeing pavement for the first time since flooding began in mid-June. KIMT reports that on U.S. Highway 65 – which is Main Street in Albert Lea – has reappeared after being under water for nearly two weeks.

Residents in Blakeley Township, located in the Minnesota River valley, finally returned home Monday after being evacuated more than a week ago when heavy rains triggered landslides, which blocked access to the town, FOX 9 reports.

The Mississippi River, which crested Thursday at more than 6 feet above flood stage, is expected to fall below major flood stage in St. Paul by Wednesday, but officials told the Pioneer Press that it could be weeks before roads, parks and trails can be reopened.

To put the cleanup timeline in perspective, St. Paul needed about a month to reopen its parks after flooding from winter snowmelt in 2011, and officials say this year's flooding has been worse, the newspaper notes.

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One of the state officials who accompanied federal inspectors on their tour of flood damage says Minnesota will have no trouble passing the $7.1 million threshold to qualify for aid from FEMA. A state Senator from Duluth says the feds typically cover about three-fourths of the cost of repairs to infrastructure, with state and local governments paying the rest.

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