Political leaders arrive today to see damage
LUVERNE -- Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz will visit Rock and Nobles counties today to assess the damages from this week's ice storm.
The contingent of state and federal politicians will fly in to the Worthington Municipal Airport following an aerial tour of the damage done to communities in Nobles and Rock counties. Their first stop, at 9:45 a.m., will be at the Worthington Fire Hall to meet with local officials. They will then caravan to Luverne for an 11 a.m. meeting at the Rock County Law Enforcement Center, followed by a 12:15 p.m. stop at the Hills American Legion.
Both counties continue to have large sectors of rural areas and some small communities without power.
In a meeting Friday afternoon in Luverne, Rock County called together city clerks and mayors from each of its communities, as well as other officials, to discuss the latest situation with the spring storm cleanup.
Power companies there, like in other counties in southwest Minnesota, are in their fourth day of restoration efforts.
Brian Beem, with Alliant Energy, said they have crews working in four counties in Minnesota and three counties in Iowa to repair storm damaged power poles and electrical lines. As of Friday, power sources to substations had been accomplished, with nearly 400 linemen working on restoration efforts.
Magnolia had power restored, crews were setting poles and trying to restore service in Hills and there remains a lot of work yet to do in the area around Ellsworth. Beem said crews will focus on getting power to Steen today, along with Hills, Beaver Creek and Ash Creek.
Approximately 35 juveniles and staff from Southwest Youth Services were anticipated to return to their Magnolia facility after being housed in the Luverne National Guard Armory since Wednesday. Residents of Tuff Village in Hills remain housed at the Tuff Memorial Home because power has yet to be restored in that community.
"Hopefully, by noon Saturday, we should have better than 99 percent of our system intact again," Beem said. "We're going to be dealing with isolated outages then. If people are not back on, don't hesitate to call."
Members served by Alliant Energy should call 1-800-255-4268 for service information. He also reminded those at Friday's meeting that Alliant is responsible for the power lines to the residential meter. If the meter loop is damaged, homeowners need to contact an electrician for the repairs.
In addition, Beem asked the public to require those "you think are utility people" to show an ID.
"If they can't produce it, call law enforcement," he added. "We want your community safe and we want our services back to a normal state."
Forms were distributed to each city representative so that communities across Rock County can make a disaster declaration. Communities will also need to continue documenting everything from expenses related to storm cleanup such as debris removal and overtime hours, to taking pictures of the disaster before and during cleanup efforts.
"We want to go for a presidential declaration -- that's where you get the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) people in," said Amy Card with the Minnesota office of Homeland Security Emergency Management. She specified that the assistance will be for government and nonprofit entities.
"This isn't individual homes and businesses -- that's a different program," Card said.
She asked that city officials get "ballpark figures" for debris removal and emergency protective measures, such as putting up cones and barricades and using emergency staff. Public schools can document costs for food loss or expenses for emergency generators, and non-profits such as rural water and the Minnesota Veterans Home can also track the added expenses they've had as a result of the storm.
Card told city officials that today's visit by the politicians will be "a good time to stress your impact, especially on your city budget."
"What's going to happen if you don't get a declaration? What will you not be able to do the rest of the year? Be sure to present that type of information to them," she said.
Nobles, Rock, Jackson, Murray and Cottonwood counties need to reach a combined loss of approximately $7.2 million in uninsured loss to reach the Minnesota threshold for assistance.
Rock County Sheriff Evan Verbrugge said Friday the Minnesota National Guard will not be coming to counties in southwest Minnesota to assist with debris cleanup.
The city of Worthington, which had made a request for National Guard assistance earlier in the week, was told there was limited equipment available, and it would have to be brought from Fort Ripley. Also, there were only about two dozen Guard members on hand, and they are scheduled to be deployed next week to Afghanistan.
If people need assistance in clearing debris, Rock County Administrator Kyle Oldre said there are groups interested in helping, including some out-of-town church groups, as well as kids from Southwest Youth Services.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.