SLAYTON, Minn. — Gov. Mark Dayton got a firsthand look Friday at southwestern Minnesota communities that have been hit by flooding.
The governor's first stop was Slayton, where he met with local officials and community members to discuss how to get state and federal help to them. Slayton is the seat of Murray County, where 8 to 10 inches of rain fell Tuesday, or double what the area typically gets for all of July. Coming on top of a wet June, the heavy rainfall flooded roads, farm fields and basements across much of southern Minnesota.
Flying in, Dayton said he saw a lot of standing water on fields that were partially or even completely underwater.
"It's a catastrophe," Dayton told reporters. "And we just pray for more dry sunny weather like this to bring the water levels down."
Dayton was joined by U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, Sen. Tina Smith, state Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson and state Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly. Their itinerary also included trips to Walnut Grove and Balaton.
The governor said he would visit Windom, Blue Earth and Jackson on Monday to survey the damage there, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she would visit flood-affected areas with Peterson on Sunday. Their itinerary was still being determined Friday.
Dayton declared a state of emergency Thursday for 36 counties and the Red Lake reservation because of a persistent pattern of severe weather since June 9 that has brought waves of heavy rain, flash flooding, high winds and tornadoes to much of Minnesota. The storms and resulting flooding have damaged crops, roads, homes and other buildings. Flood warnings remained out Friday for some rivers in southern Minnesota, and some roads remained closed.
The governor said he'll be seeking federal disaster assistance for the affected communities but cautioned that the process for obtaining relief is slow. Smith said she'll be working from Washington to get the aid approved as soon as possible.
"It's a hard time," Dayton said. "There's no way around it."
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture said farmers in areas covered by the state of emergency can apply through their existing lenders for zero-interest loans from the Minnesota Rural Finance Authority for help in covering cleanup, repair and replacement costs not covered by insurance.