Searchers find body of missing flood victimby Sea Stachura, Minnesota Public Radio
In southeastern Minnesota, residents continue flood clean-up. The last person unaccounted for in the disaster has been found. On Tuesday afternoon Winona County officials announced they'd found the body of Jered Lorenz, the final person missing after the disaster.
Winona, Minn. — Jered Lorenz, 37, left a party Saturday night, driving home on a township road. His empty car was found Sunday near Rush Creek, north of I-90.
Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand says a search party discovered Lorenz's body four miles from his car.
"The people who were walking along the shoreline riding ATVs had spotted him," he said. "That was one of my investigators who was working the case. They told me he was in a couple trees. They had to cut a couple trees out of the way."
A Blackhawk helicopter lifted Lorenz's body from the wooded area. Sheriff Brand says his county used National Guard, cadaver dogs, deputies and Civil Air Patrol to look for the man.
As some of the flood waters recede, the needs of the community are mounting and so are the bills. Two thousand people are still coming to the Red Cross for meals and for boots. The city of Winona is out of boots for clean-up. The police chief has ordered a truckload from La Crosse, but needs some one to pay the bill.
In briefings this week Gov. Pawlenty has said that he believes the state has enough in its reserves to handle the disaster with the help of federal relief. President Bush just declared the 35W collapse area a federal disaster, but that declaration won't help the six-county region suffering after the flash floods.
It's up to the governor to submit another request to the president to declare this region a federal disaster before those dollars become available. It's also up to the governor to call a special legislative session to draft bills to help with the relief effort.
Representatives from the DFL Party were at Tuesday afternoon's press conference. House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher says in the short term the governor could use the state's reserves to pay for these disasters, but she believes the state's budget will get tight with or without federal aid. She says a special session is needed to deal with both this disaster and the collapsed 35W bridge.
"I think it will take an act of appropriations to be able to fully fund. When I look at what was done for the Roseau flood, or the Red River flood or the St. Peter tornado, it absolutely took an act of the Legislature to provide the levels of resources that were needed," she said.
The state provided $3 million in housing finance in the Roseau flood and $4 million in St. Peter's 1998 tornado. That was in addition to many other state appropriations for things like transportation, agriculture and education.
Kelliher says people shouldn't have to wait until February, when the next legislative session starts, to get loans and grants from the state.
Winona, Houston and Fillmore counties still have many roads closed. Winona County says a very rough estimate of damage just to county road costs is $3 million. Many township roads are completely washed out. County and township roads are the responsibility of the counties and townships, not the state.
Much of the road maintenance dollars for counties come from property taxes and gas tax revenue. County engineers in the past year have stressed their tight budgets.
Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, underscores that. Murphy chairs the Transportation Committee in the Senate.
"Clearly all 70 percent of the deficient bridges that are at the same deficiency as the I-35 bridge are here in southeastern Minnesota," he said. "This has exacerbated the situation. We need a funding package for transportation that doesn't rely on gimicks. We need cold hard cash to fix this stuff. And it's going to be a cold day before another session goes by and we don't fix that stuff."
Legislators say the governor has talked about calling a special session after Labor Day, but right now, people are looking for shelter, cleaning supplies, diapers, clothing, and dumpsters amongst other things.
The Winona County Board has also passed a resolution requesting the governor call a special session and ask the president for a federal disaster declaration. Fillmore and Houston counties may soon be following suit.
- All Things Considered, 08/21/2007, 5:55 p.m.