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Dayton declares state of emergency in 35 counties

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Gov. Mark Dayton declared a state of emergency Thursday in 35 Minnesota counties, including Otter Tail County, in response to flooding and other problems related to heavy rainfall in recent days.

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Dayton’s executive order makes a range of state resources available and engages state agencies in response efforts.

The governor directed the Minnesota National Guard to send 100 soldiers to Koochiching County to help in storm affected areas.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has activated the State Emergency Operations Center. The center was partially activated earlier in the week and is now fully activated.

“We’re ramping up our efforts to help communities across the state that are dealing with storm damage and high water due to the recent heavy rains,” said Kris Eide, Homeland Security and Emergency Management director, in a news release. “The state’s emergency operations center is in contact with emergency managers in the affected areas, and we are coordinating the state’s response as directed by the governor’s state of emergency.”

A full activation of the Emergency Operations Center occurs when there are significant impacts from an event over several or large areas of the state. Storms that have caused flooding and other damage began on June 11 and are continuing; the National Weather Service is predicting additional rain for regions that are saturated or are experiencing rising river and lake levels.

State agencies are now in the Emergency Operations Center to monitor conditions around the state and respond to resource requests from local emergency managers.

The full list of counties: Beltrami, Blue Earth, Brown, Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Grant, Hubbard, Jackson, Lake of the Woods, Le Sueur, Lyon, Koochiching, McLeod, Morrison, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Pipestone, Ramsey, Redwood, Renville, Rice, Rock, Roseau, Saint Louis, Scott, Sibley, Steele, Todd, and Waseca.

In related news, the Minnesota DNR is urging boaters, paddlers and swimmers to think twice before heading out on the water right now. 

People must be especially cautious around high water; making sure they wear a life jacket and are aware of local flooding conditions and alerts. People also should not venture into flooded areas.

“Rivers, lakes and streams around Minnesota are extremely swollen and that water is cooler than normal,” said Kara Owens, DNR boat and water safety specialist. Water temperatures around the metro are hovering around 70 degrees, which is 5-10 degrees colder than normal.

“Stream and river currents are also extremely strong and moving fast, which many boaters and swimmers are not used to,” Owens said.

Boaters should also be aware that there’s more debris in the water. That includes both natural and man-made objects that have been swept into the river.

“Debris will often float just at or below the surface,” Owens said. “Hitting a log at high speed could result in damage to boats or serious injuries.”

So far this year, three people have died in boating accidents compared to five this time last year.

A no-wake zone is currently in effect on rivers and lakes around the metro, including the St. Croix River from Taylors Falls to Prescott, Prior Lake and Lake Minnetonka. The Minneapolis locks on the Mississippi River are closed to both recreational and commercial traffic. 

For more information, visit the DNR website: www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/boatwater/index.html.

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