Flood-ravaged Rushford in midst of rebuilding
Rushford, Minn. (AP) — Spend even a few minutes in this southern Minnesota town and you'll hear the roar of construction equipment.
Rushford was devastated by the floodwaters that swept across much of southeastern Minnesota last August; few homes or buildings in the town of about 1,700 people were spared. The damage was so widespread and the government paperwork required to rebuild was so daunting, that some locals wondered if their town could ever truly come back.
But nine months later, the outlook is less grim. A recent report by the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund found that the vast majority of Rushford residents have decided to repair rather than desert their homes.
In the first quarter of 2008, the city issued 227 flood-repair permits. That's compared to only 51 demolition permits, and 36 of those were for the Bluffview Trailer Park, which was totally swamped.
"It's a positive sign. A lot of people are fixing up their homes," Rodney Darr, owner of Darr Auctions and Realty, told the Post-Bulletin of Rochester.
Much of the actual rebuilding is being done by volunteers, like the Winona State University football team, which recently spent a week working in town. John Williams, whose family's mobile home was destroyed in the flood, is moving into a once-flooded home on Maple Street that's being renovated by volunteers.
"There is no way I could get this done (without help)," Williams said. "It would take me two years."
Even as the rebuilding proceeds, there are still plenty of challenges for this city. The nonprofit report found a major lack of rental housing in the wake of the flood, with all available units currently occupied.
Mayor Les Ladewig said plans are in the works to rebuild some apartments damaged in the flood, but it's unclear how long that will take. In the meantime, many Rushford residents are renting out of the city until something is available in town.
Money is still tight for many residents, despite aid from state and federal agencies. The nonprofit report surveyed 63 residents living in FEMA trailers, and 23 of them said they'd need more than $30,000 to obtain new housing; another 21 said they'd need between $20,000 and $30,000.
"People are moving along the best they can with the resources they have. There are still some unmet needs financially," Ladewig said.
Despite the challenges, the report estimated the city will lose only 20 residents in the wake of the flood. And volunteers have continued to flock to the city to help with rebuilding.
"There was never a doubt in my mind that this community was capable of (rebuilding)," Laedwig said. "I just know they are a tenacious bunch."
Information from: Post-Bulletin, http://www.postbulletin.com