Law enforcement, charity groups, businesses and individual volunteers are rallying to help clean up thousands of trees and get supplies to the areas pummeled by Sunday's storm.
An incident command post and relief center was established Tuesday at Timberwood Church at 23084 Highway 371, Nisswa.
The relief center will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. to assist storm victims in need of water, ice and food. Agencies operating the temporary facility include the Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Bridges of Hope, Lutheran Social Services, the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office, Crow Wing County Community Services and the Crow Wing County Highway Department.
In a release Tuesday afternoon, Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl asked the public to stay out of storm-affected areas unless they live there or are helping with relief efforts. Unauthorized individuals "are subject to law enforcement contact and will be told to leave the area," the release said.
Crow Wing County Emergency Manager John Bowen said Tuesday the county plans to work with nonprofit Minnesota Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster to provide rapid response debris-clearing teams trained in the use of chain saws. In addition, Home Depot plans to provide personnel and equipment to aid relief by Thursday, he said.
Area branches of the Red Cross and Salvation Army worked to deliver water to residents whose supply had been cut off and debris crews removing trees in the July heat. Dan Williams, executive director of the American Red Cross' Northern Minnesota Chapter said Monday afternoon that one emergency response vehicle was operating in the area with another on its way from the Twin Cities.
"Apparently there's a lot more need than anyone really anticipated," he said.
Red Cross workers are attempting to deliver water to those whose road access is severed by downed power lines and fallen trees, Williams said. As of Tuesday afternoon about 150 families had received water, he said.
The Red Cross was still searching for someone to donate use of a refrigerated truck in order to deliver ice to affected residents, Williams said.
The relief center will operate likely through Friday, he said.
The Salvation Army's Emergency Disaster Services truck drove to the area around Cinosam Road to give food and water but soon had to double back for more supplies after they ran out.
Employees from the Viking Land Harley-Davidson dealership also ventured to the damaged corridor in shifts of three to deliver water.
Local nonprofit Bridges of Hope is doing much of the coordinating work between agencies. They're also on the job of coordinating between volunteers wanting to help clean up debris and homeowners who struggle to put their property in order after thousands of trees and branches fell.
Only four staffers have been working to field the volunteer calls, so Bridges of Hope Development Manager Kassie Heisserer did not know how many people have come forward to volunteer as of Tuesday morning.
"It's changing minute by minute, but we're doing our best to coordinate," she said
The nonprofit has set up a fund intended to help provide financial relief to storm-affected residents such as lower-income resort workers who are out of work because their workplaces are closed.
"That means they're going to have trouble with rent or utilities in about a month from now," Heisserer said.
She said the fund was set up Monday and an estimate of funds gathered was not yet available.
How to help, and how to get help
People wishing to donate funds for Bridges of Hope's long-term relief effort can visit the fund's website.
Volunteers or residents needing help with debris cleanup or supplies can call Bridges of Hope at 218-825-7682 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
People who need water or food can visit the Salvation Army food shelf at 208 South Fifth Street in Brainerd. Those wishing to donate water and food can do so from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The Red Cross can receive donations via its web page. Monetary donations are routed to the Red Cross branch serving the zip code from which the donation originated.
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota submitted tips on how to avoid being scammed by people claiming to want to help with storm relief.
"Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you," the BBB said in a release. "Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Make temporary repairs if necessary. Storm victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor."
Other tips included not making any permanent repairs until you get approval from your insurance company because your insurer might not fully reimburse you for permanent repairs made without their authorization.
Visit bbb.org or call toll-free at 800-646-6222 for more information.