Map shows weather disasters across state

A new report highlights the increasing need for severe weather and natural disaster preparation, something Austin and Mower County residents know all too well.

The report, released by advocacy group Environment Minnesota, includes a clickable online map showing 82 of Minnesota’s 87 counties have sustained federally declared weather disasters since 2007. Those disasters including flooding, tornadoes and severe storms. Only Koochiching County in far north-central Minnesota, and Todd, Morrison, Benton and Sherburne counties in central Minnesota stayed off the federal disaster lists in that five-year period.

Austin only had one federally declared weather disaster in the report: The severe storm that flooded Austin on Sept. 23, 2010. Several days of rain led to the second-highest flood in the town’s history, but much of the town was spared from damage due to ongoing flood mitigation efforts. Total damage estimates topped $250,000.

“We’ve had them every four years, and it seems like they’re getting worse and worse,” said Mayor Tom Stiehm.

City officials are working to update emergency management practices, as the Austin City Council decided to make an emergency management plan part of its goals and projects for this year. Police Chief Brian Krueger, the city’s designated emergency management coordinator, said he would bring the council up to speed on the city’s emergency management practices at a recent council meeting.

Stiehm said the update was necessary as the city finishes flood mitigation in the North Main Street area, which has been delayed over environmental issues at the old Sinclair gas station near the Cedar River. City officials say the project could take up to two years to complete due to the delay.

“Once we get North Main wrapped up, it’ll make a big difference,” Stiehm said.

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