Government aid coming to Rolette CountyGovernment aid is being made available to residents of tornado-ravaged Rolette County, as estimates of damage continue to rise. Local officials in Belcourt estimate that six structures were destroyed and 28 others damaged by Monday’s tornadoes, while officials in Rolla estimated 12 destroyed and 18 damaged in that city, Gov. John Hoeven said Wednesday.
BISMARCK (AP) — Government aid is being made available to residents of tornado-ravaged Rolette County, as estimates of damage continue to rise.
Local officials in Belcourt estimate that six structures were destroyed and 28 others damaged by Monday’s tornadoes, while officials in Rolla estimated 12 destroyed and 18 damaged in that city, Gov. John Hoeven said Wednesday.
The estimates were higher than those released after assessments from emergency managers and National Weather Service teams who viewed the storm damage.
Hoeven said the federal government would be helping secure temporary single-bedroom apartments for tornado victims. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development agency planned to have staff at the Turtle Mountain Tribal Highway Garage in Belcourt and Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Rolla beginning Thursday to coordinate housing assistance, he said.
The governor said he also sent a state Department of Emergency Services liaison to Rolette County to help coordinate local, state, tribal and federal resources. The state Human Services Department also will be providing counseling and other disaster mental health services to county residents.
“Now that the initial impact of the storm is over, our work isn’t done,” Hoeven said. “We need to focus our efforts on helping people work through the difficult first days and secure adequate housing as they rebuild.”
Meteorologist Nathan Heinert, of the National Weather Service in Bismarck, said the tornado that struck Rolla appeared to be in the low EF-3 range, with wind gusts of around 140 mph. The assessment team had rated the tornado as an EF-3 in the Belcourt area, but Heinert said a closer look rated it more in the range of high-end EF-2, with peak wind gusts of 130 mph.
Greg Wilz, the state emergency management director, said it is doubtful the damage total in Rolla and Belcourt will meet the $1 million threshold for a federal disaster declaration.
“In just looking at the number count here, it’s going to be pretty unlikely here that we’re going to see a federal declaration in those two areas, but we’re going to work real hard to find other means to fulfill their needs,” Wilz said.
Martin Peltier, 44, of Belcourt, was reported in serious but stable condition at a Minot hospital after suffering a crushed pelvis during the storm. A Rolla-area firefighter was treated for a minor injury.
Hoeven and other state officials came to Rolla and nearby Belcourt, on the Turtle Mountain reservation, to talk to homeowners Tuesday. State Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm said his department should have an estimate on the extent of the damage by the end of the week.
“We expect that insurance companies will promptly respond to the needs of their policyholders,” Hamm said Wednesday. “If residents encounter any unreasonable delays in the process or have questions regarding the claims process, they are welcome to call the department for assistance.”