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Dayton seeks $21 million in disaster aid for intense storms across Minnesota this summer

The entrance to Currie, a small town in southwest Minnesota, is pictured July 5, after up to 10 inches of rain fell in some parts of the region. (Drone photo courtesy of Murray County Emergency Management)

ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday, Aug. 8, requested more than $21 million in federal assistance to 29 counties and three tribal nations for damage caused by a series of intense storms that hit Minnesota in late June and early July.

The storms included heavy rain, tornadoes, straight-line winds, violent thunderstorms, and widespread flooding.

Federal assistance, if approved, would cover 75 percent of public infrastructure costs, with the state paying the rest. Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Dayton said the assistance would make a huge difference for local governments.

Roads and bridges accounted for 43 percent of the state's verified damages, totaling more than $9.3 million, and according to a letter Dayton sent to President Donald Trump, parts of the state received 400 percent of normal rainfall in that time.

"We had townships doing repairs on county roads that were greater than their annual operating budget, so this is overwhelming given the magnitude of the damage that was done," Dayton said. "Local governments are not off the hook entirely, but it makes it possible for them to be able to rebuild and recover."

The federal assistance does not cover damage to private businesses and homes. Dayton said the state might be able to help individuals or businesses enduring "specific instances of severe hardship."

Dayton noted that Minnesotans spent more than 1,100 volunteer hours helping victims of flooding and other damage. Those efforts were highlighted in Cottonwood County and Murray County, where residents filled countless sandbags to defend against rising water.

In the southwest corner of Minnesota, Nobles, Rock, Murray, Jackson, Cottonwood and Pipestone County are all listed as affected areas that require federal reimbursement, totaling more than $4 million in public damage, repairs and emergency protective services.

Damage to Murray County was the most destructive on a per-person basis, totaling $222.23 per capita and more than $1.9 million in total costs to public entities. Murray County was also hardest hit with road and bridge damage, totaling $149.76 per capita and more than $1.3 million and the county used the most resources of any county to protect against flooding and conduct rescue operations, leading to a cost of $17.21 per capita. The county conducted an evacuation of residents in the Lake Shetek area when water levels on lakes in the area became dangerous.

Farther north, the storms and flooding impacted northwest Minnesota counties and tribal nations from June 15 through July 12. On July 4, a tornado touched down in Bemidji, causing property damage along with downed trees and power lines. Beltrami County had declared a state of emergency following severe thunderstorms that swept through the area just days earlier—on June 28-29, which also caused damage and power outages.

Other counties in the declaration include Aitkin, Blue Earth, Brown, Carlton, Cass, Clearwater, Faribault, Itasca, Kanabec, Koochiching, Lake, Lyon, Martin, Nicollet, Pine, Polk, Redwood, Renville, St. Louis, Sibley, and Watonwan, and the tribal governments of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation.

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