MN to help flooded town

Residents without flood insurance whose homes were inundated when an ice jam caused the Little Minnesota River to overflow its banks may be able to get some financial assistance from the state.

BY STAFF REPORT | BROWNS VALLEY, Minn. | March 17, 2007


Ice storm downed power lines and trees throughout Oklahoma.
Credit: Boyce Bowdon

Residents without flood insurance whose homes were inundated when an ice jam caused the Little Minnesota River to overflow its banks may be able to get some financial assistance from the state.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty held out that hope in a meeting Friday with about 100 residents after touring the tiny town in western Minnesota near the South Dakota border. Other elected state and federal officials also toured the community.

Pawlenty said assistance could be in the form of state grants or low-interest or no-interest loans to individuals. Such a move could be controversial, however, since it could create resentment from homeowners who did pay for flood insurance coverage and might encourage them to drop their policies knowing that the state would step in to help in a disaster.

Pawlenty also pledged help from the state to repair roads, bridges and other infrastructure damaged by Wednesday's flood.

Officials said it was unlikely the town, with a population of about 650, would meet eligibility requirements for federal assistance.

Latest assessments show some 140 homes were damaged by the flood, some of them suffering major damage.

As the water receded, residents began the task of cleaning up, shoveling out mud from their homes and pulling out water-soaked carpeting, furniture and appliances.

Brenda Reed said the flooding happened so quickly that few people had time to remove any belongings and many others were trapped.

"I had about 10 minutes to get two vehicles out of our garage, it came up so quickly," said Reed, the superintendent of the Browns Valley schools. "It was very unexpected."

"Some people lost everything, house, car, everything but the clothes they're still wearing," added Mayor Jeff Backer Jr.

Reed said the basement and first floor of her home were flooded. Her family's business was damaged as well, she said.

Firefighters, police, maintenance crews and other volunteers helped rescue people from their homes and made sure everyone was safe. She said residents were helping each other to recover from the flooding.

"It's wonderful to see such a commitment to each other here," she said.

Reed said she was concerned about the long-term recovery, noting that many of the affected residents are elderly and few had flood insurance.

"This is a low-income area and there's a high poverty rate here," she said.

"We'll need help," added Backer, whose home was also flooded. "For sure with cleanup, but then figuring out what people are going to do."

According to the 2000 census, about 14 percent of Browns Valley's population lived below the poverty line.


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