Assessing tornado damage to homes a painstaking taskby Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — State officials and the city of Minneapolis are putting together a request for federal disaster aid in the wake of Sunday's tornado.
Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he plans to send a letter to President Obama asking for a federal emergency declaration. If a federal disaster is declared, some residents may receive as much as $29,000. But first, officials need to complete their assessment of the damage.
Check out different ways to get involved in cleanup efforts or a list of resources available for those the tornado effected.
City inspectors have completed preliminary inspections on roughly 7,000 properties hit by the tornado. They say as many as 100 are considered unsafe for habitation. But officials expect that number to rise as the recovery continues.
On North Logan Avenue in one of the hardest hit sections of north Minneapolis, lead city housing inspector Farrokh Azmoudeh points to what's left of one home's roof. He said inspectors put a red placard on the door because this house is considered uninhabitable. "As you can see the structure has been damaged," he said.
The small two-story stucco house looks crushed. Its red roof is open to the sky and the upper level porch has been ripped off and part of the home's exterior walls and most of the windows are missing.
"[I]f they stay there, the roof may collapse, there is a water leak, and if there is damage to the chimney, the furnace and water heater won't be able to function properly, so there could be a carbon monoxide issue. It could be numerous different reasons."
Azmoudeh is one of several dozen inspectors who've worked around the clock since Sunday assessing storm damage. He said this block actually looks a million times better than it did just a day earlier.
Hundreds of volunteers helped clear debris from the street on Tuesday to make it passable for emergency crews.
Still, there is a long way to go.
Dewayne Thornton, 40, lives across the street. Nobody in his family was hurt, but the five bedroom house they rent suffered damage: Some roof tiles are gone, along with many of the windows, but inspectors say the house is safe to rehab. Thornton's landlord has already been out making repairs.
The back of the house took the brunt of the storm's force. Most of the utility poles in the alley behind his house were either snapped in half or totally uprooted. The ground is a chaotic jumble of roofing, siding, tree limbs and power lines. Workers scramble over debris piles in gloves and boots.
"If you go back there and look," he said, "all four garages are gone."
Thornton's back shed is also gone, along with his set of expensive tools. Fear of looting has kept Thornton away from work all week.
"Our insurance would've made it so we could have stayed in a hotel, but it's kind of hard to leave your stuff," he said.
Thornton sent his children to stay with their grandparents this week while he waits for power to be restored, so he can turn his alarm system back on.
He said the wait for electricity is frustrating. "Our biggest need is the power to our house," he says. "If they could hurry up and get our power — if we were in Chicago or somewhere, they would never have let the power go out like that. A crew would have worked all night, they would not have waited until the morning. They would have put spotlights up, they would have been on the power grid to get it done."
As of Wednesday afternoon, roughly 5,100 Twin cities customers were still without electricity.
A spokesman for Xcel Energy says crews were not allowed into the tornado zone until Monday, when the city deemed it safe. Xcel has had more than 450 people working to restore power to the neighborhood since then, and hopes to get most customers back on line by Thursday night.
But properties with broken masts, which connect buildings to power, could wait longer. Those owners will first need to repair their masts before Xcel can restore the electricity.