Recovery center opens as Minneapolis tallies damageby Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Three days after a tornado ripped through parts of Minneapolis, city officials still don't know exactly how many people will need housing. They hope to know more after a new disaster recovery center opens Wednesday in north Minneapolis.
Mayor R.T. Rybak said officials are working on getting a full picture of the devastation left by Sunday's storm.
"We know a lot but we don't know everything we need to know yet," Rybak said.
Rybak said city needs a more accurate accounting of the storm before it can apply for state and federal aid.
Preliminary estimates say the tornado could cost the city more than $166 million to repair damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure. The tornado damaged at least 1,800 properties. About 1,200 residents poured into a makeshift assistance center at the Minneapolis Convention Center Tuesday.
Forty housing inspectors have been canvassing neighborhoods for two days. They're posting red notices on any home deemed unsafe for habitation. So far officials have flagged 116 buildings as unsafe.
On Tuesday, city officials said at least 130 people took advantage of housing at two shelters, the Northeast Armory and the Drake Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. At this point, officials say the armory will shelter people as long as needed. They've identified another space in north Minneapolis to use as a shelter depending on demand.
Rybak says they're trying to remain flexible, because he expects the numbers to change.
"A lot of people toughed it out for a day or two or lived with someone else or stayed in some really inadequate situation," he said, "but they are going to want to get back to real life. They may not be on our radar screen yet, and we know that so no one should be surprised if we get more or less attendance at these places. We are going to have to play it by ear."
NEW DISASTER RECOVERY CENTER
Farview Recreation Center at 29th Avenue N is located close to the hardest-hit areas. A disaster recovery center there will distribute basics like tarps, flashlights and batteries to whoever needs them. And people can also find help with permanent housing, childcare, counseling, food, clothing and medication.
City Council President Barbara Johnson represents the Fouth Ward, which took the brunt of the tornado. She said the storm's destruction is another hurdle for already struggling north side homeowners.
"There are so many folks that are underwater on their mortgages," Johnson said. "They are going to be wondering what this means. I hope the insurance companies treat them fairly. That can be a struggle sometimes for anybody that has dealt with insurance issues. We have got a long process to go through to help people get back on their feet."
Housing inspections and electricity work will continue this week. More than 900 homes could remain without electricity until homeowners and landlords fix the connections from their buildings to the power poles.
City crews on Wednesday will begin collecting storm debris. Hundreds of volunteers are expected to fan out across the neighborhood, distributing information about services.
And by the end of the week, state workers will survey residents about their needs. Officials are urging people to give these workers complete and accurate information to ensure the state gets the most assistance possible from FEMA when the federal money is made available.
- Morning Edition, 05/25/2011, 8:25 a.m.