Hubbard County, Park Rapids law enforcement officers offer assistance to Wadena after tornado caused heavy destruction throughout town June 17
Since an EF-4 tornado decimated much of neighboring Wadena, Hubbard County and Park Rapids have been sending in the troops.
The night of the June 17 twister, Sheriff Frank Homer dispatched four deputies immediately to help Wadena County secure the perimeters of the devastated city.
All through last weekend, a parade of Hubbard County deputies, Park Rapids police and Emergency Management Director Brian Halbasch made daily pilgrimages to assist personnel there.
Park Rapids police chief Terry Eilers said he and three of his officers were watching the clouds.
"At approximately a little after 5 o'clock, I was listening to Wadena County and their dispatch, you could hear as she's talking, she said, 'someone better run out on the west side of town and figure out what's going on out there because something's happening,'" he said. "They lost power and then one of the deputies came on and said, 'we just got hit by a tornado, we're devastated.'"
It's been a learning experience for Hubbard County and Park Rapids personnel they hope they never have to put into practice here.
And as time goes on and hundreds of volunteers pour into Wadena to help with the cleanup, Homer said the need for security increases.
"Right now what we're doing is generally one or two deputies and anywhere from one to four posse members have been going," Homer said. "Just yesterday I learned that their dispatch area is really being taxed from the time they're putting in so they're asking for assistance. We had a sign-up sheet for our dispatch and jail to go down and relieve their personnel so they can rest up. They've been really putting in a lot of time with everything going on."
Hubbard and Wadena counties have always had close ties, including sharing a SWAT team, so when the neighbors needed help, there was no question Hubbard would respond, Homer said.
Eilers reiterated that sentiment.
"That's part of what we do and part of what law enforcement trains for, is to be in the middle of disasters," he said.
Wadena would have done it for us.
In a heartbeat.
"Right now we have to keep track on everything we are involved with, hours and those are overtime, your insurance and mileage on vehicles," Homer said, for eventual federal reimbursement as Wadena qualifies for FEMA assistance.
He said there have been internal discussions as to the financial obligations of Hubbard County rendering assistance.
"Would you still send people to Wadena County even if you weren't going to be reimbursed and of course the answer is yes," Homer said.
"They need help. It's one of those things we can't forecast as far as our budget but it sure is nice when the area meets the threshold for FEMA assistance. We may not have it 100 percent covered but the majority of your experiences will be."
Eilers said his officers are keeping track of their time in Wadena but many have said if they don't get paid they're OK and will volunteer.
Homer is proud that his employees have volunteered to go to Wadena on their days off to work, but departmental policies may limit the number of hours any staffer can put in down south.
"Basically we send people on their days off," he said. "We have policies for working for other departments. Eight hours before your shift starts at the county you can't be working elsewhere for obvious reasons. We can't have people coming in that are dog tired."
Homer went down last Friday and said he was impressed at what a well-coordinated response the city organized.
"They had the emergency management director, the mayor, the police chief, the sheriff, the city maintenance supervisor and quite a staff put together in terms of getting this thing organized so it doesn't fall on one person's shoulders," Homer said.
"And that's why I've had Brian down there also," he said of Hubbard County's new emergency manager. "One, they need the help and two, it's great experience for him and hopefully we never have to go through anything like that but it gives him some insight to the paperwork you have to keep track for FEMA."
Two Sentencing to Service work crews of inmates have been going to Wadena, Homer said. Between the posse, police, deputies, dispatchers, jailers and STS supervisors, Hubbard County is sending 8-10 people a day to the community.