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County officials warn of spring flooding

Hubbard County Emergency Manager Brian Halbasch is standing by to help residents and government agencies deal with spring flooding.

"With the snow depths we have across Hubbard County this spring, I am expecting some type of flooding to occur," he said in a letter shared at the March 13 Akeley City Council meeting.

He asked city and township officials to call 732-2588 or email bhalbasch@co.hubbard.mn.us if they incur extra expenses due to flood issues.

"I am going to track all expenses throughout the county in the event any type of public assistance funding or reimbursement is available once the numbers reach our county threshold," he said. "This will include debris removal, damage to roads (including grading to assist with water flow and gravel repair/refill), payroll and fuel."

Entities should keep track of expenses, receipts, invoices and payments. "Photos are also very important to the state so they can view what is going on when they are looking at the paperwork," he said.

Halbasch plans to be in the emergency management office on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

"I will be driving around the affected areas while I am patrolling also," he said. "If it is an emergency situation or after hours, contact dispatch at 732-3331 and they will reach out to me."

He said he is also happy to assist with questions or filling out paperwork.

Wadena Sheriff's Office urges preparation

The Wadena County Sheriff's Office is asking residents in the region to start planning for potential flooding in the coming weeks.

"The snow we currently have, along with recent rains, are elevating flood risks during the spring thaw," Wadena County Sheriff Michael Carr said in his press release.

"The biggest threats will arrive when the rivers begin to open. Ice dams and water runoff will elevate flood risk quickly. If you have been thinking about flood insurance, but haven't made a decision, now would be the time to get a policy in place. Most flood insurance policies take 30 days to go into effect, so waiting until the flooding starts may end up doing you no good." According to the Minnesota Department of Safety, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, around 25 percent of flood insurance claims happen outside of high-risk areas.

Carr said that everyone in the state is at some risk for flooding or water damage. Those who live in an area prone to flooding should get supplies ready in advance, such as sandbags. The Army Corps of Engineers website contains information on how to build a sandbag levee.

Anyone who encounters flooded roads is urged to turn around.

"The risk of driving through a flooded area is not worth it, as you do not know if the road has been completely washed out," Carr said. "Becoming stranded in a flooded area is a real possibility, but flood waters carry enough momentum to sweep vehicles away, which can become life-threatening in a hurry."

Anyone who needs assistance locating resources or information can reach out to Tyler Wheeler, the Wadena County Sheriff's Office director of emergency management, at 631-7795.

The Department of Public Safety website has a section dedicated to flood preparation at https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/hsem/Pages/2019-spring-flooding.aspx.

U of M Extension resources

University of Minnesota experts say now is the time for those who are in an area that could be impacted by flooding to make essential preparations.

U of M Extension experts recommend making a "grab-and-go" file of critical documents and paperwork and storing it in an airtight container small enough to carry it in a backpack or small travel bag. Families should also create a plan for emergencies. U of M Extension resources include tips on talking with children about emergencies in an age-appropriate manner.

They also offer a printable toolkit to help families recover financially after a disaster.

To learn more about family resilience and emergencies, visit z.umn.edu/disasterprep19.

Protect private wells from contamination

With the risk of flooding increasing in many parts of the state, health officials urge private well users to prepare for the possibility their wells might flood.

Wells contaminated with floodwater pose a health risk, but the impact floodwaters have on wells and water quality are often not as visible as other flood damage. With that in mind, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) offers well users the following recommendations:

• If a well is in a flood-prone area and there is time, consider contacting a licensed well contractor to check the well and make any necessary repairs or changes to help protect it from flooding. These changes may include repairing cracked or damaged casing, extending the well casing above the expected flood level, or temporarily replacing the vented well cap with a watertight cap or cover. Also, make sure grading allows water to flow away from the well.

• If there is a possibility the well might become flooded, store a supply of clean water that will last for at least a few days. Shut off power to the well pump to avoid having flood water pumped into the plumbing system or home.

• If a flood is imminent, cover the well with a heavy plastic bag or sheeting and secure it with electrical tape. This won't completely protect the well from contamination, but will help reduce the amount of water and debris that could enter the well, making clean up easier.

Well owners needing more information can contact the well management section of MDH at 651-201-4600 or health.wells@state.mn.us.

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