Updated: Flood damage estimates keep risingAt this point in time, Carlton County is conservatively estimated to have sustained $105-135 million in damages. Those numbers don’t take into account personal property items outside of infrastructure, such a houses, walls, carpeting and floors, so that number is expected to grow.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The price tag continues to rise after what Carlton County has now dubbed “the Northland Flash Flood,” since the disaster left very little of the county unscathed.
“Carlton County has 24 townships, and reports so far show there has been damage in every single township in the county, including substantial damage in all but two of those townships,” reported County Coordinator Dennis Genereau at a news conference Monday afternoon at the County Transportation Building. “Every single city has also received some amount of damage, some to a pretty significant extent.”
At this point in time, Genereau reported that Carlton County is conservatively estimated to have sustained $105-135 million in damages, adding that those numbers don’t take into account personal property items outside of infrastructure, such a houses, walls, carpeting and floors, so that number is expected to grow.
Conservatively, the county is estimating approximately 1,750 critical appliances such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, freezers and hot water heaters were destroyed, which Genereau said could easily add up to a value loss of nearly $1 million.
The four-person staff of the Carlton County assessor’s office, assisted by numerous other professionals and volunteers, have thus far assessed 4,800 residences for damages – slightly more than a third of the county’s approximately12,500 homes. Of those damaged, Genereau reported 383 have lost property value of between 10-49 percent; 119 have experienced property value loss of 50-94 percent; and 64 have met FEMA standards for total loss of value. To date, total residence value loss in
the county is estimated at $19 million-plus.
Of the county’s businesses, 25 have experienced10-49 percent property value loss in the county; 16 have experienced 50-94 percent value loss; and three were completely destroyed, for a total property value loss through damage of $2.3 million.
Also hard hit in the county were farmers, whose crop damage from the flooding, according to estimated 2012 market values, is currently set at a $3.4 million loss, or approximately 20 percent of the county’s corn and oat crops and 25 percent of the hay and alfalfa crops.
The damage estimates don’t stop there. As far as damage to possessions is concerned, the debris – which Genereau defined as “personal items that as of June 18 were in fine shape and that people relied on to make their homes comfortable” – has already amounted to 4,300 tons at just one of the county’s three waste collection sites.
Genereau said the damage totals at this point in time equal almost $3,000 per capita in a county of some 35,000 residents – even before the major items are totaled in.
Last weekend the city of Moose Lake – one of the communities hardest hit by the flooding in Carlton County – put on its annual Fourth of July celebration in spite of that community’s staggering losses. Tom Paull, flood manager for the city of Moose Lake who also serves with the Moose Lake Fire Department and volunteers with Mercy Ambulance, reported at Monday’s news conference that Moose Lake had approximately one-third of all of its houses hit by this storm. He said numerous homes were either destroyed or had major damage, adding that most of the damage was from high water levels in basements.
After the water crested, the fire department started doing pump operations, Paull said, and anyone who had water in their basement was asked to come and sign up to have their basement pumped. Over two and a half days, the fire department pumped over 100 basements, some of which had to be pumped numerous times.
“The water in most houses was approximately six feet,” related Paull, “so people lost everything that was in their basements – water heaters, furnaces, washers and dryers and freezers, as well as their electrical panels.”
All of those places that lost power due to high water levels had to have their meters pulled and the gas shut off, so those houses had to go without power for an extended period of time. To date, Paull said the community still has 16 residences that do not yet have electric meters. Despite that situation, he reported no one in Moose Lake went to a shelter.
“Everyone was absorbed back into the community, which was very good,” he said. “We had a lot of people who remained in their houses with no power, no lights, no hot water, and in many places, no sewer. They were just places to sleep.”
Damage in Moose Lake was fairly wide ranging. The water crested with approximately two feet of water over Arrowhead Lane (the city’s main street), so it affected most of the city’s larger businesses in the central business district. Lampert’s Lumber Company had three to four feet of standing water, and the hockey arena had over four feet of water as well.
“We’re not sure at this point if we’re going to be able to use the hockey arena again,” related Paull. “Last season we had a U-12 girls hockey team that won the state championship, and now we don’t know if they will be able to get back in there and play.”
He said the school has been inspected and they’re doing water damage restoration at the present time. Initial damage estimates are over $750,000.
“They’re pretty sure they’ll be able to open for school in September, but they’re just not certain,” said Paull. “The water level is still so high that water is still coming in to the school, so until lake levels and the water table recede, we’re not going to be able to totally address all the damage.
In the first week following the flood, the community of Moose Lake logged over 11,000 hours of volunteer services.
“These were just individuals who wanted to help,” said Paull. “To put in 11,000 hours in just six days is amazing. What they were doing was helping with sandbagging, cleaning, moving and serving three meals a day at Hope Lutheran. There was just an amazing outpouring and it’s still going on.”
Paull said at this point, on the surface Moose Lake actually looks pretty good. During the Fourth of July parade, city residents actually had people from out of town come up to them and say, “What’s the big deal? We don’t see anything.”
“That’s thanks to all the hard work of everybody in town who coordinated with the county, who in turn coordinated with the debris removal people to get the streets clean,” explained Paull. “Everything looked perfect, but it was what was behind those doors that people didn’t see. It’s not like tornado damage that’s insurable after it blows a house over, or a fire like the one in 1918 that burns your house down. These are just soaking wet houses that are starting to grow mold.”
Paull estimated the number of houses in the community yet to be sanitized is now down to 30, but otherwise almost all the debris is out of the houses and workers and residents are done with almost all the demolition. Now it’s mostly cleaning and making sure mold growth and sanitation are taken care of that remain.
“In a town the size of Moose Lake, considering the number of houses that were affected, we’re in excellent shape – at least on the surface,” said Paull. “What people have to understand is that a flood is not insurable. It’s not as though you can go to your insurance company and have a large share of your loss taken care of. We lost the sewer pump in Moose Lake, so before the flood waters crested all the basements filled with sewage. Some did have sewer backup coverage, but typically that coverage is only $5,000-$10,000, and a typical homeowner’s policy doesn’t begin to cover everything they’ve lost. The point I’d like to make is that help with money and funds will be very important to getting people back to a normal life.”
Genereau said at this point in time, the county is transitioning from the emergency management response phase to the long-term recovery phase, saying it could very well take months and, in some cases, in excess of a year or two to really get that long-term recovery process completed.
“We have not dealt with a natural disaster of this sort since the 1918 Fire,” Genereau said. “When we talked with FEMA before the flood occurred about whether we should look at planning for floods as part of a natural disaster response, flooding was not a significant priority in that there were really no flood plains identified within the county. It’s not an area that has historically experienced any real significant flooding on a countywide level. During this event, the river in Moose Lake crested at 19 feet – about three and a half feet higher than it’s ever crested before, so that shows you what we’re dealing with.”
Genereau stated the county is encouraging residents to be open to allowing volunteers to help them out, at the same time being cautious in making sure it’s not just anybody they let in the door. He said the county has information and numbers the public can contact to make sure the volunteer groups that are coming out to help with flood cleanup are legitimate.
“Right now our biggest concern is to make sure people are safe and then get them economically back to where they feel comfortable in their homes,” summed up Genereau. “We do not want people walking away from their communities, we don’t want businesses not being able to reopen or rebuild. It’s vital to us as a larger community countywide that we keep the people we have been relying on for all these as part of our community. We want to keep them around and we see it as our responsibility to help out.”