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Biden approves 'Major Disaster Declaration' for Douglas County for May 12 storms

A request for the May 30 storms is still pending.

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A confirmed tornado caused significant damage to a house along South Darling Drive in northwest Alexandria shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday, May 12, 2022.
Celeste Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press
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DOUGLAS COUNTY — President Joe Biden has approved Gov. Tim Walz’s request for a major disaster declaration for 23 counties in Minnesota, including Douglas County, that were impacted by tornadoes, flooding and storms that occurred in May.

According to Julie Anderson, Douglas County Emergency Management director, the Federal Disaster Declaration for the May 12 tornado and derecho — a widespread wind storm — in Douglas County is to help the county, its cities and townships, and public utilities recover costs incurred.

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Julie Anderson

She said together, all those entities submitted $651,515 in expenses for debris clearance, emergency protective measures following the storm, damage to roads and bridges, damage to buildings and equipment, and expenses for repair and replacement to impacted utilities.

Anderson also said that Runestone Electric Association, Alexandria Light and Power, and Great River Energy are eligible utilities as either a rural electric cooperative or municipal-owned utility. “They reported the largest damage amounts which were related to broken and leaning poles and damaged power line conductors,” she said.

State disaster officials and FEMA collected preliminary damage assessments from Douglas County, the cities of Alexandria, Osakis and Carlos, along with Carlos, Hudson and Osakis Townships and will now work with county emergency management and the applicants to ensure all expenses are accurately documented and reimbursed, said Anderson.

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Tim Kalina, chairperson of the Douglas County Board, said the disaster declaration does not include funds to cover costs incurred by farmers, home or cabin owners, or private nonprofit groups.

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Tim Kalina

“We know many people lost their homes, had damage to their farms, and are facing unexpected costs to remove large numbers of trees,” said Kalina. “The recovery will be long and difficult.”

Kalina noted that the federal funds, however, ensure local governments and utilities continue to have the ability to quickly and adequately respond during severe weather events.

“There were many county, city, township and utility workers who quickly cleared trees from roads, ensured people were not trapped in their homes, barricaded damaged roads, and worked to restore power,” he said.

A home at the corner of Donna Drive and Meadow Lane was ripped apart.
Dustin and Desiree Wiita, along with their four young children, were safe in the their basement under the stairwell in a storage space when the storm hit their neighborhood in northwest Alexandria on Thursday, May 11.
Crews restore power, chainsaws cut up trees

The Douglas County community continues to raise funds and apply for grant dollars to assist storm-impacted residents.

The Greater Alexandria Area of Realtors and Minnesota Realtors successfully applied for $100,000, which is available for homeowners. Applications can be found on their website at www.alexandriamnrealtors.com .

The Alexandria Response Fund is also still active. To make a contribution, go to https://www.communitygiving.org/donors-advisors/donations . Make sure to select “Alexandria Response Fund” so your contribution goes to storm impacted residents.

Impact of Minnesota storms

On the morning of Sunday, May 8, thunderstorms generated winds in excess of 60 miles per hour that swept through Stearns and Morrison counties, downing trees and power lines.

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The following day, May 9, tornadoes touched down. They ranged from an EF0 twister near Hastings to a cluster of five tornados – one with winds exceeding 110 miles per hour – in central Minnesota, causing extensive damage.

The evening of May 11, five tornadoes touched down in southwestern Minnesota to the northeast through the Twin Cities.

On May 12 and 13, the southern two-thirds of the state experienced violent and dangerous storms and at least six tornadoes were confirmed in west central Minnesota, including one that touched down along Donna Drive and South Darling Drive in northwest Alexandria . The damage is estimated to be around $11 million.

More assistance?

Gov. Walz has also requested assistance for two other weather-related events in recent weeks, including a disaster declaration request for federal assistance for ongoing flooding in Northwestern Minnesota, and an extension for the timeline to request support for a Memorial Day tornado outbreak that caused significant damage in more than 20 counties, including Douglas County, in order to complete damage assessments.The May 30 tornado hit Maple Lake near Forada in Hudson Township, along areas near Nelson and Osakis.

During a three-day period – June 22 through June 24 – more than a 100 cubic yards of construction and demolition waste was pulled from the lake.

“This spring brought unprecedented storms and historic flooding to our state. But time after time I’ve seen people put their neighbors’ needs ahead of their own while facing devastating consequences to their homes, farms and businesses,” said Walz. “While the state continues to help in every way we can, we need the federal government’s help. I’m grateful that more assistance is on its way, and I’m committed to continuing the work to rebuild.”

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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