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Gov. Tim Walz Tours Storm Damage In Western Minnesota

BENSON, Minn. (WCCO) -- Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday visited a western Minnesota community reeling from devastating storms touched down late last week, pledging the state is behind them as residents pick up the pieces.

Among them are Rick and Rhonda Flower, whose property sustained significant damage. The structure of auto repair business was completely torn down. Grain bins were left bent and broken, and severe winds also decimated where they store equipment on the 800-acre family farm.

"It was devastating," said Rick Flower of seeing the destruction for the first time. "But we're fortunate, we're very fortunate."

Gov. Tim Walz Tours Storm Damage
(credit: Gov. Tim Walz's Office)

For Rhonda Flower, she is most thankful that neither of the people she values the most, her husband and son, were harmed. She said it's a blessing that they weren't there when the storm happened.

"They would've been in the shop working on a piece of farming equipment," she said, holding back tears. "I probably would be paying for a funeral."

Storm Damage in Benson, Flower family auto repair shop
(credit: CBS)

As they assess the damage, the Flowers say they won't rebuild the auto repair shop. The storm shuttered the business for good, after five decades in the community. They will continue to farm.

"This was our business. This was our livelihood," Rhonda Flower said. "We now start over and we'll come out stronger when we get there."

Storm Damage in Benson, Flower family auto repair shop
(credit: CBS)

Walz met with community leaders, from law enforcement to emergency management, during a roundtable Thursday before touring damager at the Flower farm.

Benson Mayor Terri Collins and others asked Walz and Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly about how to access resources to rebuild. Kelly said it's important to document the scope of the damage and the costs and pass it along to the local emergency managers.

Kelly called this phase the "very beginning of the beginning of recovery."

Extended Clip: Gov. Walz Tours Storm Damage

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He said that starting next week, FEMA will visit 49 Minnesota counties and five tribal nations to survey damage not only from the string of severe storms last week but also Red River Valley flooding earlier this month.

But he noted that process getting resources after determining a federal disaster declaration can take a long time. The state has a disaster assistance fund to plug in gaps, he said.

"Do the right things, pay the expenses and then bring it to us and to FEMA for reimbursement," Kelly told WCCO. "There will be money to make you whole to restore your accounts on the back side."

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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