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Dayton, Nolan visit damaged resorts, meet aid workers

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (center) and Congressman Rick Nolan meet with the Kavanaugh family and other resort owners and operators during a Friday tour of areas hard hit by the July 12 storm. Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch1 / 3
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (second from left) talks with Terry Sluss, deputy chair disaster services Minnesota Region American Red Cross, Friday as he meets with disaster relief workers and volunteers at the relief center at Timberwood Church in Nisswa. Tony Guerra (left) American Red Cross disaster program manager, looks on. Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch.2 / 3
Tony Guerra, American Red Cross disaster program manager (left), Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, Congressman Rick Nolan, talk with Terry Sluss, American Red Cross deputy chair disaster services Minnesota region and volunteers at the relief center in Nisswa. Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch3 / 3

NISSWA- Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., on Friday visited Brainerd-area resorts damaged by recent severe weather to emphasize the area tourism industry is "open for business" in the wake of the storm.

"Come to Nisswa, come to the lakes area," Dayton said. "It's still one of the most beautiful areas in the country."

Nolan, who flew back from Washington following news of the storm, took a helicopter tour of the damage corridor with Dayton. He, too, said the area was back in business.

"The entire community has come together in a remarkable way to get the area back on track," Nolan said.

The helicopter dropped them off at the incident command center and relief station at Timberwood Church in Nisswa.

Dayton and Nolan met with local and state government workers in order to learn more about storm response efforts. Law enforcement barred the media from attending the storm response briefing, although it was a meeting of public officials. Later, Crow Wing County Emergency Management Director John Bowen said this was because they were concerned there would be too many people in the room if reporters were allowed in.

Following the closed meeting with public safety staff and aid workers, Dayton and Nolan held a press conference in tandem with local legislators.

Dayton said he had not yet declared an emergency that would allow state funding to be routed to the area, as the state is waiting for public property damage assessments to come in. However, he said he was "cautiously optimistic" the damage totals would meet thresholds for receiving state funding.

"I wouldn't expect numbers to come in for the next week, two weeks," he said.

In the meantime, state agencies such as the Minnesota Department of Transportation, as well as the Homeland Security and Emergency Management division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, were assisting with the response, Dayton said. The Minnesota National Guard was not called out to assist because it wasn't requested by local governments in the storm path, he said.

Nolan said based on preliminary estimates, the storm dealt "millions of dollars" of damage to public property alone, not counting private property such as people's homes.

Local legislators including Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Lake Shore and Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, appeared with Dayton during the day.

Ruud said the storm had proven the area's preparedness for dealing with a disaster.

"You always wonder if your community is ready for an emergency," she said. "You hope they are, and you hope you never have to find out. This week we found out Brainerd is truly ready for an emergency."

She acknowledged that individual storm victims still were receiving help from aid groups like the Salvation Army and Bridges of Hope.

"We have citizens who are still hurting," she said. "But we also know that our golf courses are open, our restaurants are open, and our resorts are so resilient."

ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Zach.Kayser@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZWKayser.

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