Damage estimates in the Winona area continue to climb in the wake of last week's flooding. Heavy rains and floodwaters caused more than $300,000 in damages in Winona County, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials determined when they visited the area Thursday.
But that total pales in comparison to damage estimates from several neighboring counties on both sides of the Mississippi River. Flooding caused nearly $800,000 in public sector damage in Trempealeau County and nearly $600,000 in Buffalo County, officials said. And preliminary figures have not been released for Wabasha County, where the cities of Zumbro Falls and Hammond have been devastated by floodwaters.
Six FEMA crews spent Thursday traveling throughout southern Minnesota to assess the flood damage in 35 counties. Those estimates will be tabulated and passed on to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has said he will then ask President Barack Obama to declare the region a disaster area. Typically when a disaster declaration is made, about 75 percent of local public-sector damage costs are reimbursed, FEMA spokesman Greg Hughes said.
In Winona, FEMA officials reviewed public-sector damages with county officials, including everything from the cost of repairing damage near a bridge in Elba Township to the cost of towing vehicles from a park-and-ride lot in St. Charles. And with each item, the damage total swelled further upward.
"If this does get declared, it looks like Winona County would certainly qualify," said FEMA project specialist Keith Casson. That qualification would not include damage to personal property in the county.
Winona County's damages far exceed their two neighbors to the south. Houston County did not even request an assessment because of the limited damage, FEMA officials said. Meanwhile, Fillmore County only had about $45,000 in damage, they said.
But damage totals on the other side of the river continue to swell.
Trempealeau County has 38 homes with minor damage and two with major damage, according to Wisconsin Emergency Management. Eight businesses reported minor damage and four major.
FEMA crews are expected to start performing damage assessment in Wisconsin next week.