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Rains prompt action in Winnebago

September 25, 2010
Jodelle Greiner — Staff Writer

WINNEBAGO - In an emergency meeting Friday prompted by torrential rains this week, the Winnebago City Council voted to declares the city in a state of emergency.

"This requests the money that Gov. Tim Pawlenty has made available to the areas affected by the heavy rainfall," said City Administrator Austin Bleess.

Bleess said Faribault County commissioners passed the same resolution Friday morning, and surrounding towns have passed or were about to pass it.

"Wells passed it about two hours ago," Bleess said. "Minnesota Lake is going to meet."

"The next step is for the document to be forwarded to the governor's office and FEMA in the Twin Cities," said Bob Toland, Winnebago police chief and the emergency management director.

"FEMA in Minnesota will make a request of FEMA Region 5 in Chicago," Toland said. "The governor will request emergency management staff do an assessment of the financial need, checking for infrastructure damage in the area. If that reaches a certain dollar amount in the state, then the governor can request the President declare a disaster area."

Toland said this was separate from declaring an agricultural disaster.

"There's an entirely different assessment for crops," he said.

Toland recommended people "document, document, document.

"Keep records, document all bills, take pictures of the damage," he said.

He also recommended knowing the points on any insurance policies that might apply.

Any money awarded will be made available to the city and "when we get the information, it'll be on the radio and newspapers," Bleess said.

In the meantime, Winnebago is just trying to dry out.

"There's water in a lot of basements," said Bleess. But, for the most part, the town was able to keep its head above water during the rainfall.

Toland said the town didn't lose power, but even if the power had gone out, "all lift stations are powered by back-ups."

"The public works guys were out at 11 on Wednesday night running pumps," Bleess said. "Pumps are still running at some locations."

Bleess said most streets were fine, but "some gravel roads are washboards with big gullies through them. The street department will be out on Monday trying to get more roads in shape."

Bleess praised the people who worked nearly around the clock in the crisis.

"They did a great job the last couple of days," Bleess said. "A lot of sleep's been lost."



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