St. Louis Co. Seeks Public Input for To Avoid Next Major Disaster

By KBJR News 1

February 20, 2013 Updated Feb 20, 2013 at 7:00 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Cotton resident Gene Rands remembers seeing first–hand the property devastation left behind by June's historic flood.

"The roads were all closed, the bridges were closed—so that did a lot of damage [to] taxpayers," said Rands.

But Rands says much of that damage could've been reduced, or avoided altogether.

Four days after the 10 inches of rain fell, Minnesota Power followed what Rands calls an outdated federal operating plan and opened the Whiteface Reservoir—only worsening the flood for residents downstream.

Rands said no one from the county notified residents of the decision: "We had people trapped, we couldn't get fire trucks, first responders, or anything else into these places."

It's those exposed weaknesses in the Hazard Mitigation Plan that people, like Marcus Bruning of the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office Emergency Management Division, are working to fix.

In all, over 30 people of varying expertise have been chosen to analyze risks, set goals, and listen to first–hand testimony from people, like Rands, about what can be done better on the front–lines of disaster prevention.

"The idea is to go into local areas and [ask], 'how can I help?' That's what the emergency operations plan is all about—having those resources available to us," said Bruning.

But, the reality of the situation is you can't prevent everything, which is why the Hazard Mitigation Squad says these sessions are just as much about response as they are prevention.

"What would be the impact upon our community, upon our citizens, and... our infrastructure? How can we reduce that risk?" asked Bruning.

Once the data has been collected, it's off to be approved by the state Homeland Security division, then FEMA, and back to the Saint Louis County Board for final approval.

Northlanders are invited to share their experiences and concerns Thursday at the Northland Office Center, in Virginia, from noon to 2:30.

For more, head TO THIS LINK

- Posted to the Web by Billy Wagness