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Summer storms bring fall repairs

Severe thunderstorms packing powerful winds and torrential rain and hail swept through the area multiple times this summer and local businesses are still working to repair all the damage. A Sept. 23 deadline is approaching to apply for physical damage disaster loans at low-interest rates to help businesses, homeowners, nonprofits and renters. There is an online application option.

Storm photos from Brainerd
The wind screen and backstop of a softball field in Memorial Park Tuesday, June 21, 2022, was dislodged by high winds from a storm Monday night in the Brainerd area.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Multiple large storms wreaked havoc on the Brainerd lakes area this spring and summer.

Early morning storms May 30 cut off electricity to thousands in central Minnesota before a second wave of storms ripped through the area again later that night, toppling trees with heavy rain and strong winds.

While many continued to make repairs and clean up the damage from the Memorial Day storm, a second set of severe storms came through the area again a few weeks later, between June 20 and 24.

Both of these storm events caused widespread damage throughout the county, said John Bowen, the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Management director, who had just finished giving a briefing to cities, townships and co-ops on how to file for federal disaster relief.

Bowen said the storm damage from both storms met and exceeded the requirements to file for state disaster relief. And all the damage in the state from the May 30 storm propelled Minnesota to meet the requirements to file for federal disaster relief.

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Storm photos from Brainerd
Dave Boran, left, and Jim Nelson carry a log across Boran's yard Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in Brainerd. A severe storm rolled through the Brainerd area Monday night downing trees and causing damage.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“For the May 30 storm, I believe we were just below $700,000 which came in as our preliminary damage assessment,” Bowen said. “And June 20, we had just over a million in damages.”

With a federal disaster, townships, cities and the county get reimbursed 100% for eligible costs. For federal disaster relief, 75% comes from the federal government and the other 25% comes from the state government.

The disaster relief money is used to repair local and state infrastructure. For homeowners and area businesses, who had to turn to their insurance companies for help with their repairs and losses, requests for those funds and repairs were numerous and, because of that, were answered slowly. For example, the number of State Farm claims reached as high as 40,000, said Jake Brandt, the agency principal at Jake Brandt-State Farm Insurance in Brainerd.

“Whether it's wind or hail in the Brainerd lakes area, because of the magnitude that we had, we got a lot of personal property damage,” Brandt said.

Brandt said a lot of the personal property from homeowners, such as boat lifts and docks, were damaged this year by the strong wind gusts associated with the storm and it's not uncommon for a homeowner to have three different types of claims going on at the same time as they get their home, vehicle and personal property repaired.

“If you're in the tree service or the roofing business, this year was good for them and bad for insurance companies,” Brandt said.

Trying to find contractors is tough, Brandt said. With multiple storms coming through the state, tree service companies were busy and building and construction contractors were hard to schedule even before the storm.

Brandt said a lot of his customers are finally getting roofs replaced as contractors are making their way through damaged areas. However, delays in getting materials and the costs associated with those materials have increased as well.

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Jim Sodomka, the agency principal at Weizenegger Engel Insurance, can attest to that. He said everyone is extremely busy right now so it’s been hard to find contractors who have time to make repairs. .

“That's been a big challenge is getting somebody actually to do the work to fix it,” Sodomka said.

Booked up solid for about six weeks with lots of work still coming in, Jamie Lyter, the general manager of Neumann Construction, said he had customers waiting just as long for adjusters to get out to people's property.

IMG-2285-potvin.jpg
Picture taken at a house on North 6th street tonight after the first wave of storms.
Contributed / Natalie Johnson

Still booking hail damage repairs out almost a month, Shannon Christian, owner at Shannon’s Auto Body, said the auto repair industry started moving to vehicle owners becoming their own adjusters about five to six years ago with the wide availability of smartphones.

Those upgrades to filing a vehicle insurance claim come with their own challenges, and Christian said they are often adjusted too low and often miss other damage associated with a crash.

Christian said his technicians and staff are trained to handle making adjustments to claims to get customers the most out of their repairs but they are still finding delays in receiving parts.

Lyter said he is still receiving calls from people who may not have been in the area during the storms but are having their roofs checked now after seeing their neighbors getting repairs done.

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“I guess you could say the Memorial Day storm was kind of the one that kicked it off,” Lyter said. “Ever since probably the first or second week of June, It's been busy. We have three sales guys working five or six days a week. And they've been nonstop since then.”

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Even after finding someone to do the work, Sodomka and Brandt said everything is costing more to repair and they both recommend getting policies looked at as they may no longer have enough coverage with the increased prices of repairs and materials.

Financial help is available to businesses, nonprofits, homeowners and renters with a Sept. 23 deadline

The Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation recently reported an estimated 40 homes and several businesses were inundated with floodwaters when the late June deluge — deemed a 500-year rain event by the National Weather Service — caused the Little Elk River to overflow its banks and overrun the Morrison County community.

“On May 12, straight-line winds in excess of 85 mph left a path of damage across Todd County. The storms damaged dozens of homes, machine sheds, silos and barns. At least two of the homes are uninhabitable. Most property owners have some level of insurance but are experiencing myriad complications, ranging from high deductibles to insufficient coverage to significant delays in securing labor and materials for needed repairs,” the Initiative Foundation reported.

The SBA recently sent out a reminder to businesses, nonprofit organizations, homeowners, and renters in Minnesota of the Sept. 23 deadline to apply for physical damage disaster loans. “Anyone in the declared counties with physical property damage caused by severe thunderstorms and flooding on June 23 to 24 should apply for the low-interest disaster loan program,” the SBA reported, adding the declaration covers Morrison, Benton, Cass, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, Stearns and Todd counties.

Interest rates are as low as 2.935% for businesses, 1.875% for nonprofit organizations, and 1.688% for homeowners and renters, with terms up to 30 years. The SBA sets the loan amounts and terms based on each applicant’s financial condition.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application via SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/ela/s/ and should apply under SBA declaration No. 17537.

TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email tim.speier@brainerddispatch.com .

Related Topics: CROW WING COUNTYWEATHER
Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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