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Dayton declares weather emergencies in 36 counties; to visit southwest Minnesota

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton has declared emergencies in three dozen counties and the Red Lake reservation after a series of storms starting on June 9 caused damage across the state.

Dayton signed the executive order Thursday, July 5, that gives the counties and reservation access to state disaster funds and state aid. The order gives local government access to help from all state agencies.

Dayton said the severe storms caused flooding, high winds and tornadoes over the past month.

The Department of Public Safety says the order opens the possibility of the areas being named federal disaster areas if damage exceeds $7.7 million. State and local officials are examining the damage to see if it meets the criteria for federal help.

The Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management division will ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency to conduct its own preliminary damage assessment.

If it appears there is enough damage to get federal help, Dayton must prepare a letter for Washington outlining the damages and what local agencies did in response to the severe weather. Aid may be available to help local governments, but maybe not individuals.

The state has set aside funds to help areas that do not qualify for federal disaster assistance.

Storm damage was reported in at least 36 of the state's 87 counties. The counties are scattered throughout the state.

Some of the most recent damage came in Beltrami County, where a tornado hit the Bemidji area Wednesday, and flooding occurred in several southwestern Minnesota counties.

In southwest Minnesota, some rivers continued to rise Thursday, while others began to fall. Some places received up to 10 inches of rain, Tuesday, July 3, twice what normally falls the entire month. Many areas already had received lots of rain.

Late Thursday, Dayton said he would visit the towns of Slayton, Walnut Grove and Balaton on Friday to assess the damage.

He will be joined by U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., U.S. Rep. Colin Peterson, D-Minn., state Ag Commissioner Dave Frederickson and state Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly.

Besides the Red Lake reservation, other counties declared in the emergency were Aitkin, Becker, Beltrami, Blue Earth, Brown, Carlton, Cass, Clearwater, Cottonwood, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Jackson, Kittson, Lake, Lyon, Mahnomen, Martin, Mille Lacs, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Pine, Pipestone, Polk, Red Lake, Redwood, Renville, Rock, Sibley, Stearns, Stevens, St. Louis, Waseca and Watonwan counties.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.