Counties tally up storm damage estimates for FEMA

WORTHINGTON -- Individuals with the state's Homeland Security Emergency Management office and officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency made the rounds in southwest Minnesota this week to gather preliminary damage assessments stemmin...

Sundberg Avenue is shown Thursday near Nobles County 4. The county still has several stretches of gravel roads that remain closed due to damage or high water. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - Individuals with the state’s Homeland Security Emergency Management office and officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency made the rounds in southwest Minnesota this week to gather preliminary damage assessments stemming from rapid snow melt and spring rains in March through Winter Storm Wesley, the ice storm that hit the area on April 10.

Both events are being lumped into one incident report stretching from March 12 through April 29.

Though numbers are still preliminary at this point, it appears counties in The Globe’s coverage area have met the thresholds for both state and federal disasters.

Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson said townships, small cities and Lismore Cooperative Telephone Co. presented damage assessments to FEMA and HSEM on Tuesday totalling $393,383. Since then, he received information from Great River Energy noting $3.26 million in estimated damage to its system in Nobles County, with 271 structures damaged.

Johnson said he still anticipates estimates from the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District (potentially $75,000 to $100,000) for rapid snow melt and flooding that damaged the new Prairie View stormwater pond spillway. Nobles Cooperative Electric has submitted estimates of $1,989,190 (32.74 miles) for Nobles County and $2,929,565 (45 miles) for Murray County.


Of the nearly $400,000 in reported damages, Johnson said the bulk was for road repairs, with about a dozen culvert washouts reported.

Nobles County still has several stretches of gravel roads that remain closed due to damage or high water. According to the county’s dispatch center, Seward Township has closures on 110th Street between Paul Avenue and U.S. 59, as well as Paul Avenue between 120th and 130th streets. In Indian Lake Township, Roberts Avenue is closed from 290th to 300th streets, 300th Street is closed from Roberts Avenue to Sundberg Avenue and Sundberg Avenue is closed from 300th to 310th Street. Graham Lakes Township has two closures, on Roberts Avenue, one-quarter mile south of 140th Street, and on Ulrich Avenue, one-half mile north of 160th Street.

Statewide, Johnson said 50 counties are going through the reporting process for a disaster declaration, with predominantly the western half of the state affected.

Initial damages reported statewide total nearly $35 million, Johnson said.

As of Thursday, Jackson County reached a preliminary damage estimate of roughly $6.2 million, according to Emergency Management Director Tawn Hall. Of that, approximately $390,000 is for county and township road and culvert damage from the spring snowmelt and flooding.

Local cooperatives in Jackson County estimate $5.9 million in costs associated with emergency protective measures, debris removal and permanent repairs stemming from Winter Storm Wesley in April. Federated Rural Electric alone had 1,266 utility poles that were either down or damaged to the point that replacement was required, Hall reported.

In Rock County, nine communities reported costs stemming from the rapid snow melt/spring flooding and the April 10 ice storm, according to Administrator and Emergency Management Director Kyle Oldre. He said $1.35 million in damage to utilities and $220,000 in damage to roads and bridges was reported to FEMA.

Murray County Emergency Management Director/Chief Deputy Heath Landsman said Thursday that preliminary damage estimates there now total about $910,000, with damages primarily to roads and utilities


Pipestone County is reporting more than $1.2 million in damages after completing its preliminary assessment with HSEM and FEMA on Wednesday. Casey Sievert, Pipestone County Emergency Management Director, said four townships have yet to report their damage estimates, so the number is expected to rise - “particularly in the road/bridge and debris removal categories.”

Township roads experienced several culvert washouts and other significant damage, Sievert said, noting that road and bridge repairs are currently estimated at $278,815. Other estimated damages as of Thursday included $630,000 to utilities; $197,819 in emergency protective measures and $94,637 for debris removal in Pipestone County.

Cottonwood County Emergency Management Director Paul Johnson said he anticipates damages of more than $375,000 to be filed, with about two-thirds of that estimate from damage to roads and culverts, as well as debris removal. The remaining one-third are expenses from power/utility companies.

“South Central Electric had downed power lines and downed poles; they were right around $125,000 or so and they may have more,” Johnson said, noting the utility was still waiting for some bills related to mutual aid.

Once a federal disaster is declared, counties will have further meetings with FEMA on reimbursement for the damages.

Both these roads -- 300th Street (top to bottom, facing west) and Sundberg Avenue (facing south) in Indian Lake Township -- remained closed Thursday. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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