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Duluth to seek federal disaster aid to rebuild

Duluth city manager of maintenance operations Kelly Fleissner said flood damage in the city will be measured in millions of dollars. "This will cost more to repair than we could possibly handle on our own, but we will probably qualify as a disast...

Duluth city manager of maintenance operations Kelly Fleissner said flood damage in the city will be measured in millions of dollars.

"This will cost more to repair than we could possibly handle on our own, but we will probably qualify as a disaster area," Fleissner said.

Mayor Don Ness said Wednesday that he intends to seek federal disaster aid to help the city recover from what may be millions of dollars in damage to roads, bridges, culverts, sidewalks, parks and more.

"If you have damage to your property, please document in detail with pictures," Ness said Wednesday. "It is my intent to seek a presidential declaration for disaster aid which may be able to help -- documentation is key."

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he will tour the damage this morning. It is usually the governor of a state who requests emergency disaster aid from the federal government.

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Fleissner said city crews had all they could do just to block off unsafe streets Wednesday.

"Dozens of streets are closed, and the list will continue to grow throughout the day," he said.

Duluth's topography, combined with supersaturated soils from earlier rains, made the city especially susceptible to erosion, Fleissner said.

"All the streams that cross the hillside react quickly. When we get heavy rains like this, the water flashes with explosive force," he said.

The city's sewer system was pushed beyond its capacity in many areas.

"We've had a number of storm sewer blow-ups and places where it has undermined the road," Fleissner said. "We can't begin to understand the scope of the damage yet, and we can't even begin to fix anything until the water recedes."

Fleissner said the damage will be measured in millions of dollars, and city staff has been talking with state officials about obtaining emergency assistance.

Fleissner said he has never seen a storm cause comparable damage in Duluth. A storm in 1972, before Fleissner joined the city, also took out a number of roads, but he said recent rainfall totals will probably surpass even that downpour.

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Dayton declared Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, St. Louis, Lake, Goodhue, Dakota and Rice counties areas of peacetime emergency on Wednesday and directed all state agencies to help in any way possible. The order exempts emergency workers and volunteers from highway and worker restrictions on hours.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-North Branch, said he, too, will tour Duluth today and that he has asked the federal Emergency Management Agency to intervene as needed.

"Mayor Ness assures me that while significant damage has resulted from this week's storms and subsequent flooding, close coordination between the city and emergency crews is taking place to ensure public safety," Cravaack said in a statement. "I thank the mayor and his staff for the quick response to this disaster. My staff and I stand ready to assist the emergency efforts -- I will be in Duluth tomorrow," Cravaack said in a statement. "In the interim, I have requested a meeting with FEMA Administrator Fugate and FEMA Region V Administrator Velasquez, and my district staff has been deployed to the area as well. While it is certain that damage to private property, our roadways, and other infrastructure will be costly, it is my hope everyone's strong efforts will be enough to ensure repair and safety for all in Duluth."

Related Topics: WEATHER
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