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Peter Passi, Forum News Service, Published June 15 2013

Homeowners still finding damage after Duluth flood 1 year ago

DULUTH, Minn. – Last June’s flood took a heavy toll on homeowners in the region. The numbers speak for themselves.

Residents reported at least some damage to 3,145 homes. The flood did significant damage to 1,900 of those homes. It cut the value of 295 homes in half, and it destroyed 72, according to Drew Digby, regional long-term flood recovery coordinator.

Rough estimates put the total damage to private properties at $40 million or more. If you consider the contents of those buildings and other personal property wrecked by the flood, the total bill would grow by another $20 million, Digby said.

And still, a year after the flood, new applications for flood recovery loans continue to arrive as people discover new damage or reach the limits of their own resources.

“We all anticipated this spring would reveal significant additional damage, and it did,” Digby said. “It’s sort of like the sound of another shoe dropping. It was predictable yet horrifying.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency stepped up to help pay for damage to public infrastructure, but residents and businesses have had to resort to loans and other sources of recovery assistance.

Getting word out to flood victims about the types of available aid has been a challenge. A group of disaster case managers employed by Lutheran Social Services with funding support from the state of Minnesota has played an instrumental role in outreach efforts. Where state programs have fallen short or failed to provide timely relief, case managers have connected flood victims with local sources of aid.

Through June 6, the state had signed off on 259 no-interest forgivable Quick Start loans for a total of $4.54 million, said Tonja Orr, policy director for the Housing Finance Agency. With applications continuing to come in, Orr said she wouldn’t be surprised to see the loan total rise to $8 million or even $9 million.

A little more than

$12 million in funding was earmarked for the flood-recovery loans, and Orr said the agency likely will seek authorization to roll any leftover funds into its Rehabilitation Loan Program designed to help low-income families and individuals. She said providing aid to people affected by the flood could be made an ongoing priority for the use of the leftover dollars.

“We have a lot of concern for people who thought they had taken care of their flood problems but who now have mold or foundation issues that the spring thaw revealed. A lot of these are issues that people didn’t recognize they had last fall,” Orr said.