Herald JournalHoward Lake-Waverly Herald, July 1, 2002

Dayton, area officals hold emergency flood meeting

By Lynda Jensen

Weary city and county officials met with Senator Mark Dayton during an emergency meeting Saturday at the Howard Lake Community Center.

The meeting lasted two hours, with flood victims asking questions, and Dayton offering the services of his office.

A hodge podge of worries were noted, including mention of a few wild rumors that were floating around, Mayor Gerry Smith said.

One rumor is that the drinking water is not safe in Howard Lake, which is completely not true, Smith said.

The city checks its water quality every single day, and the water is completely safe, Smith said.

The water in Howard Lake is 12 to 14 inches higher than ever recorded, Smith said.

Wright County Commissioner Dick Mattson's concern was about reaching through to the telephone companies. Dayton offered any phone numbers he might have to get through.

Several comments were offered by Howard Lake Mayor Gerry Smith, including information about insurance claims.

Anyone with questionable rashes or anything unusual should be checked at the clinic immediately, said Genelle Reese, Wright County Emergency Management coordinator.

Smith noted there have been very few injuries or other maladies related to the flood. One person was checked for a rash, which turned out to be swimmer's itch, he said.

Flood water is extremely contaminated and items that touch it must be thrown away, it was noted.

For this reason, the City of Howard Lake set up dumpsters at block 18, and barrels for hazardous waste, City Administrator Kelly Bahn noted.

Large items such as washers and dryers will have to wait until the city can come up with a plan, she said. "We are going day to day right now," she said.

Currently, the county is in the process of making a preliminary assessment, Reese said.

This is why it is so crucial for people to call their damage into the city or township offices, depending on where they live, so that it would assist the county in determining if there is enough damage to constitute a disaster area.

A certain dollar amount must be reached, estimated at $5.6 million, for something to be called an official disaster.

The loss so far was estimated at $10 million in Wright County, although officials urged residents to call their damage in, and carefully document what damage they received before they cleaned up, if possible.

More importantly, it was noted that the city is the hub of the information wheel and is kept abreast of all the assorted agencies that are involved in flood relief.

There are more than 10 agencies involved in the effort, including the Human Service Agency, which is offering shelter for people after the emergency shelter is closed, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Wright County Community Action, Catholic Charities, and other agencies. Phone numbers for many of these agencies are on the front page of the Herald under happenings.

In fact, Reese advised the city to attempt finding volunteers who could man the telephones, because of the estimated volume of calls. Those interested in assisting with telephone calls are asked to contact the city at (320) 543-3670.

The USDA based out of Buffalo will be handling crop loss questions.

It was noted that the elderly are particularly in danger because of the flood, and now, the heat.

Many seniors are in need of help with salvaging their belongings, and volunteers are desperately needed, it was noted. Those interested in helping may call the city.

Councilor Shelly Reddemann asked people to avoid gawking or going near the mobile home court.

During the meeting, it was noted that prisoners have been brought in by the county from both Meeker and the Wright County jail to assist in cleanup efforts.

In fact, resident Milt Jensen received grateful help from some prisoners, he said, cleaning up his yard.

The prisoners did the work in two hours, what would have taken him days, Jensen said.

Smith urged residents to forcefully call upon their neighbors and make sure they are OK and have called in their damage.

From there, once the county has made its assessment, the process moves to the governor, who then OKs the request.

From there, the Federal Emergency Management Association makes it preliminary assessment.

Dayton offered to help individual owners with insurance claims, if he could assist in this way.

In fact, Troy and Susie Lange, who were present at the meeting, received Dayton's promise to personally call their insurance company, Troy Lange said.

Officials urge residents to:

· use free dumpsters provided by the City of Howard Lake, located at block 18, for damaged flood items. The dumpsters will remain there until further notice.

· attend the flood meetings conducted at 11 a.m. every day at the shelter with any questions or concerns. Call the city to confirm the location.

· get tetanus shots, especially for children, because of the contaminated flood water. The WOW Van will be in Howard Lake for this reason.

· NOT use well water near flooding. Water test kits are available through P&Z, or by calling the city.

· be guarded about what to report to insurance agencies since Howard Lake is a lake, not a river; and not in a flood plain.

· be very cautious of scam artists and strangers without proper identification. FEMA is not in the area yet.

· document damage before cleanup, and keep track of cleaning expenses.

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