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Our View: Keep help coming for Borderland flood victims

From the editorial: "In a part of the Northland and Minnesota far off on its own and often forgotten — and that has seen, and survived, more than its share of difficulties and pitfalls — historic flooding can be overcome, too."

Lake Kabetogama flooding.
An aerial view of part of Sandy Point Resort shows two of the resort’s cabins standing in Lake Kabetogama’s floodwaters and sand bags around the main lodge Thursday, May 19, 2022. The resort's docks are underwater to the right.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
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In a lifetime on the Canadian border, Rob Ecklund has seen plenty of hardship and challenge: isolation at the “the end of the line,” as his hometown International Falls is sometimes called; layoffs by the hundreds at the paper mill, where he himself was once a machine tender and union president; a closed international border during the pandemic, which cut the Falls off from their only real neighbors in Fort Frances; and a plummeting population that now tallies fewer than 6,000, the lowest head count since 1980.

But the former county commissioner, Marine Corps veteran, and one-time youth hockey coach has never experienced the ferociousness of what’s happening right now: Floodwaters have been rising for weeks, swamping and swallowing up shoreland, homes, outbuildings, roads, and entire lives. It’s the worst the area has experienced in more than seven decades.

“The historic flooding is devastating, and seeing the damage to homes, businesses, and other property is heartbreaking,” Ecklund said in a statement over the weekend.

A state representative now — he has been since December 2015, representing International Falls and the rest of District 3A in the Minnesota House — Ecklund is in a position to help. This weekend, that included reminders about the rights of flood victims under Minnesota law, especially as they work with insurance adjusters and contractors.

“This will be a challenging recovery for our region,” Ecklund understated. “I hope folks will proceed cautiously and judiciously as they work to rebuild, especially if they interact with fly-by-night contractors who may not have their best interests in mind. The state of Minnesota is available to provide assistance, too, and I hope people will use the services available if they find it necessary.”

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The Minnesota Department of Commerce, he said, has much of the information flood victims need. Property owners can start at the department’s online Disaster Information Center and consult its Disaster Response Guide . The department’s Consumer Services Center also can be reached at 651-539-1600, at consumer.protection@state.mn.us, or online .

The department recommends anyone with flood damage contact their insurance company immediately; wait for the insurance company’s adjuster before beginning work to remove, repair, or replace damaged property; meticulously inventory all damage; and take detailed notes — including dates, names, and contact information — of every conversation with insurance, adjusters, and repair providers and everything they state.

In addition, be on the lookout for scammers or high-pressure sales tactics, especially if you are contacted by someone you don’t know, Ecklund’s statement advised. Be especially wary of salespeople going door-to-door in areas hit by storms.

“Our region will need an extra hand to navigate this dire situation,” Ecklund said in another statement, this one on May 16. He’s in a position to know. And to help.

In a part of the Northland and Minnesota far off on its own and often forgotten — and that has seen, and survived, more than its share of difficulties and pitfalls — historic flooding can be overcome, too. And that can start with valuable information, guidance, and advice from folks like Ecklund who are needed to step up and be there in emergency moments like these.

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DNT

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