June 15, 2024

Disaster declaration issued for county

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Memorial Day 2022 will be a day to remember for a long time. Grant County, along with many other counties in Minnesota, experienced an intense storm system.

The National Weather Service in Grand Forks was in Grant County Tuesday and Wednesday, following the May 30 storm event, to do their assessment. The preliminary reports indicate a tornado track (estimated EF2 range) from Elbow Lake Township to north of Elbow Lake City. At about the substation area on Highway 79, the system ‘blew out’ into a wide down burst of winds. These winds (preliminary estimate 100-115 mph wind bursts) headed through Tipsinah Mounds Campground and the area of Pomme de Terre Lake, to include the Golf Course and up through the Ashby area.

An additional weather system south and east of Elbow Lake City, to include areas around County Road 8 and County Road 21, experienced another very wide, large downburst of winds. This system (preliminary estimate 80-100 mph wind bursts) started tracking in the southwest corner of Grant County and traveled northeast between the City of Barrett and Elbow Lake.

People traveling on Interstate 94 during these storm systems experienced many semi roll- overs. There were three non-life-threatening injuries on I-94, close to the Ashby exit, sustained from the high winds tipping over a large semi onto a parked vehicle waiting out the storm.

This is the second high wind event in Grant County within the last 20 days. It is also the second Local Disaster Declaration for 2022.

This storm event brought extensive damage to rural electric companies. Runestone Electric Association (REA) experienced damages over $300,000 in Grant County alone. “REA alone has several miles of line SE of Elbow Lake that is totally destroyed and unusable,” stated an area REA manager. The power outage lasted a long time for some, but the electric crews worked night and day to restore power.

Grant County met, and exceeded, the State and Federal indicator to declare a local disaster. This lengthy process will now help process and conduct detailed damage assessments, as well as help local units of government apply for reimbursement for damage expenses.

Other applicants for this second declaration include the City of Elbow Lake, as well as the Grant County Highway Department. The City of Elbow Lake has extensive damages to the campground, as well as areas within city limits. The County Highway Department worked on clearing roads and debris management. There were 15 county roads that had heavy debris from power lines, grain bins, storage structures, and trees.

Grant County FSA Office is indicating that we are looking at the $2 million mark again. The last weather system on May 12 caused roughly the same amount of damage, to ag producers. “There were several more bin sites affected this time around that survived the first round,” state Shannon Olson with Grant County FSA.

The linemen and public works staff in Grant County did an outstanding job responding to this storm. In addition, our local volunteer responders and dispatchers were there when their communities needed them, leaving their own damages to wait.

Neighbors helping neighbors is the most effective response and here in Grant County, that’s our specialty. “We are each other’s greatest resource in rural out-state MN, we know how to help each other,” said Olson.

These last two storms are good reminders to all of us how quickly weather can change your life. It is so important for everyone to have a plan, ensure you have multiple ways to receive alerts.

Remember, sirens are made to alert people outside, not indoors. Sirens need power to work. Depending on the wind speed and direction of the wind, sirens may not be able to be heard. Sirens mean ‘Take Cover,’ you should not go outside to see what is happening when the siren activates.

If the power is out and you don’t have cell phone reception, the best protection is a NOAA Weather Radio. Having a battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio or even regular radio allows you to get weather information, even if the power is out and cell reception is bad.

Safety should always be a priority. However, it is even more critical to consider your safety and the safety of others following a severe weather event. It is also very important to stay home until all public safety has cleared emergencies following a weather event. Unnecessary traffic on our roadways causes many different types of safety concerns. It is critical that all citizens do their very best to follow and obey all road closures – this helps keep you and the responders safe.

Knowledge and understanding how to be prepared for severe weather, being involved in community and being kind to your neighbors brings strength to overcome. Having a positive attitude is all you need to be resilient. Remember to check on your neighbors, if resources are needed please let someone know. For more information, please contact Grant County Emergency Management at 218-685-8224.

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