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Douglas County on Dayton's list to get federal disaster aid

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ST. PAUL -- Governor Mark Dayton wants the federal government to help Minnesota pay for nearly $18 million in public facility damages from last month's storms.

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He sent President Barack Obama a letter Wednesday seeking a major federal disaster declaration for the 18 counties, including Douglas County, that experienced flooding and storm damage June 20-26. The request comes after federal and state officials toured the storm-damaged area and totaled the nearly $18 million in damage.

Dayton told the president that in Benson, winds were equivalent to those of a small tornado.

"This persistent trending weather pattern brought multiple rounds of thunderstorms over several nights," Dayton wrote. "For days, parts of the state were continuously under severe weather watches and warnings. Every night, thunderstorms formed and swept through the area with torrential rainfall and other severe weather, such as large hail and damaging winds."

He told Obama about 5.6 inches of rain falling in Morris and 8.25 inches in Wolverton. He said some 48-hour rainfall totals equaled what could be expected once every 500 years.

At the peak of the problems, more than 600,000 homes were without power, the most in state history.

"Generators were needed to run lift stations, water towers, wastewater treatment plants and other government services and business concerns," Dayton wrote. "Widespread road closures disrupted travel for residents, tourists, farmers, truckers, postal delivery and emergency services, with whole cities being isolated until water receded and debris could be cleared."

Dayton told the president that Benson was among the hardest hit communities, with about 1,000 homes in the area being without power three days.

He also told about extensive damage at the University of Minnesota Morris' West Central Research and Outreach Center, where 77 mile per hour winds "destroyed cattle equipment, hoop barn roofs and doors, the campus skyway, fences and a trailer" and damaged other university facilities.

In Grant County, Runestone Rural Electric's main distribution line was severely damaged, Dayton said.

Dayton requested Benton, Big Stone, Douglas, Faribault, Fillmore, Freeborn, Grant, Hennepin, Houston, McLeod, Morrison, Pope, Sibley, Stearns, Stevens, Swift, Traverse and Wilkin counties be included in the disaster declaration.

Federal funds would be used for public facilities. Washington would provide 75 percent of the funding, with state and local governments paying the rest.

Damage to most private property would not be covered.

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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.
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