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Continued: So many lives turned upside down

On the south end of town, dozens of homeowners in the Sunny Acres neighborhood, a relatively new housing development, passed through a National Guard checkpoint to return home and deal with the mud and sludge.

At house after house, residents removed sofas and carpeting and lamps and tables. Some hosed down garages with power washers.

Others simply stared in disbelief.

"We're going to have a year's full of noise here with all this activity here and all the tourists," said Mayor Don O'Neil, who watched from the garage of his body shop.

"Never in a million years did I think this would happen," said Gerry Smith, who has lived in the same house for more than four decades with husband Stan. "I've sat through a lot of storms in 44 years, and I'd always tell him 'I'm never afraid. This house will always protect us.' "

But early Sunday, as floodwaters from Garvin Brook crept closer to the Smiths' house, their daughter drove over to move her parents to safe ground.

A few hours later, the rushing brook washed away most of the Smiths' back yard, including a workshop, meat locker and shed. The bank gave way all the way up to the house, stopping just short of the foundation.

Although no one has told the Smiths or other residents whether their homes can be saved, the Smiths feared their home will be condemned.

"It's just hard to believe it looks like this," Gerry Smith said, fighting back tears.

Frustrations over aid

While many flood victims spent Monday cleaning, about 40 Winona County residents showed up at the county government center to air frustrations to county officials.

They had hoped to meet with representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Instead, the briefing featured Pawlenty after his tour of the area.

People were upset with insurance companies, the Red Cross and the pace of the assistance. The governor urged patience, and said a preliminary damage assessment throughout the region will take place over the next few days.

"We will try to deliver our very best for you, but again, it will not happen overnight," Pawlenty said.

In Stockton, about 5 miles west of Winona, between 100 and 150 homes -- about half the homes in town -- were damaged, city officials said. As of Monday, 70 percent of Stockton's homes had no power, said Beth Winchester, the city's emergency director.

National Guard soldiers in a caravan of Humvees drove through the town on their way to the town's community center, which was serving as the emergency command center.

Paul and Lavonne Pettersen were among the many people clad in rubber boots and mud-splattered clothes, sifting through the rubble.

"We're trying to see if there's anything salvageable," Lavonne Pettersen said.

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