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Officials: County flood response needs some work

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Wadena, 56482
Wadena Minnesota 314 S. Jefferson, P.O. Box 31 56482

Wadena County's response to recent flooding that caused an estimated $110,000 to date in damages and expenditures showed some weaknesses in the county's emergency response system, according to county officials.

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"We did learn that our ... command system really needs some sharpening up," said Scott McKellep, the county's emergency management director.

Procedures need to be in place so once an emergency is declared things can happen, said Commissioner Ralph Miller. The county did not have the ability to deliver sand right away. He said he was told county trucks had to abide by the same height and weight limits as other vehicles, although his research showed they do not in an emergency.

Highway Engineer Joel Ulring said a bigger issue than the weight limits was that his crew was occupied checking signs and roads. Taking care of public safety was more important than hauling sand, which could be done by the private sector, he said.

Commissioner Lane Waldhal said this will be a learning experience.

"You have to wait for something to happen to learn from it," Waldahl said. "You're going to find mistakes when it comes to emergencies."

McKellep said he was disappointed with flood predictions from weather services who did not know where the Crow Wing River is located. The county will have to do its own monitoring, he said.

McKellep will do an after action review after the current flood situation is all done, he said. The public can attend and address any needs the county didn't fulfill.

McKellep said he wasn't sure how last week's substantial snowfall will affect flooding, but he doesn't anticipate it to be as bad as it was.

Highway Engineer Joel Ulring said the ice is off the Crow Wing River and it has dropped about four feet in elevation, he said.

"I think we will not see at all what we saw here a week ago," Ulring said, adding that he is not a flood expert.

The flood affected approximately 50 residences, including cabins, and businesses, McKellep said. He referred one lady to Red Cross services for temporary housing and she was very satisfied with that.

The washout of about 1,500 feet of County State Highway 30 caused a significant portion of the damage estimate at around $40,000, according to Highway Engineer Joel Ulring. Much of the rest of the damage occurred on gravel roads throughout the county.

In a conference call with the Federal Emergency Management Agency the county learned there may be some reimbursement available. The county started documenting its time, materials and equipment usage right away for when FEMA does release funds, Ulring said.

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