MINNEAPOLIS - Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota said Thursday that it is working with the ELCA Northeastern Minnesota Synod Office and the national office of Lutheran Disaster Response to respond to the flood disaster in Duluth and other northeast Minnesota communities.
Federal, state and local officials began assessing damage from this week's torrential rains and flash flooding, putting the price tag well beyond $100 million.
"Right now, people need to focus on safety," said Nancy Beers, LSS director of disaster services and Camp Noah, in a news release.
"Emergency responders are working around the clock to assist area residents. At the same time, we know flood recovery will be a very long journey ahead - months and maybe years - especially for people who are directly affected."
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton toured several sites in Duluth Thursday morning, describing the damage as "horrific," and promising any assistance the state could offer. He pledged to apply for the region to be declared an official federal disaster to make more money available.
The cleanup and repair job after 7 to 10 inches of rain ravaged the area, however, is likely to take months and years rather than days and weeks, and Dayton asked for residents' patience.
Duluth Mayor Don Ness said a rough estimate by city engineers and others puts damage to public facilities in Duluth alone at $50 to $80 million. St. Louis County officials estimated $12 to $20 million damage in road and bridge damage.
For public damage like roads, bridges, sidewalks, utilities and parks, a federal declaration makes repair projects eligible for 75 percent federal coverage. In most cases the state would pick up another 15 percent of the price tag with local governments footing 10 percent, although in some large disasters the state has footed 25 percent with no local match needed, Ness noted.
A federal disaster declaration also makes federal funds available for home and business owners through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
LSS said it will assist with long-term recovery and will make its Camp Noah program, designed to help children recover emotionally from natural disasters, available.
LSS is appealing for donations to assist with flood recovery efforts. Donations can be made online at www.lssmn.org/disaster or by mailing a contribution to Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, SDS 12-2054, PO Box 86, St. Paul, MN 55486 (Memo: Duluth Disaster Response).
The Duluth News Tribune contributed to this article.