Minneapolis: A dire need for homes

More than 5,000 people affected by major damage to their North Side dwellings.

Hundreds of north Minneapolis residents uprooted by Sunday's deadly tornado, most of them renters with little or no insurance, scrambled to find temporary quarters Tuesday as relief workers expanded cleanup efforts and officials declared a state of emergency for hard-hit areas.

Braving long lines that sometimes strained already frayed nerves, more than 1,200 people picked up clothing vouchers, housing resources, financial help and counseling at an improvised service center for storm victims at the Minneapolis Convention Center. A new recovery center was set to open Wednesday at Farview Park on the North Side.

There was still no official estimate of the number of people displaced by the storm, but some 5,000 to 6,000 people lived in housing with major damage, based on inspection checks.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, about 7,000 homes and businesses were still without power, mostly in the areas hardest hit by Sunday's storm. Xcel Energy, reporting about 200 snapped utility poles, said that more than 400 workers were hoping to restore all power by Thursday.

Far more people showed up than expected for services at the Convention Center, making for some confusion and tense exchanges and extending the event an hour longer than planned.

Under the circumstances it was understandable, said Cathy ten Broeke, the city and county's homeless program coordinator.

"They were exhausted and very frustrated for a reason," she said. "These are trying times for them."

The National Weather Service reported Tuesday that the Minneapolis tornado that killed two people, injured 48 and caused at least $166 million in damage was a relatively weak one. It rated the twister an EF1, at the low end of the scale, with winds between 100 and 110 miles per hour.

The tornado that killed 122 people in Joplin, Mo., on Sunday was an EF5, packing winds of more than 200 mph.

"All tornadoes can do devastating damage. Even the weak ones," said Todd Krause, warning coordination meteorologist for the Weather Service's Twin Cities office.

'A long road ahead'

Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for Hennepin and Anoka counties, which continues state emergency operations and help for local governments. The Minneapolis City Council also extended Mayor R.T. Rybak's emergency declaration.

"We're going to have a long road ahead of us," said Council President Barbara Johnson, who represents part of the affected area.

The Farview Park recovery center, 621 29th Av. N., will be open to storm victims from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. It will offer help ranging from supplies such as tarps and flashlights to applications for food vouchers and rental damage deposits. "There's a lot of hurt coming," Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Stenglein said.

Minneapolis police advised North Side residents to be alert to burglaries and scam artists, but said the problems so far were not widespread.

Lt. Kim Lund, who monitors property crimes in the Fourth Precinct, said that some break-ins had been reported and that neighbors should call police if they see suspicious behavior.

Strain and worry

The ad hoc service center at the Minneapolis Convention Center on Tuesday was put on by many of the same service providers who only a day before had conducted the previously scheduled Project Homeless Connect.

Jayme and Cedric Day, watching 2-year-old Cedreeana play, waited in an area reserved for people seeking food assistance. A service provider called out No. 31, and the Days had No. 133.

The family bounced from line to line and room to room, seeking help with food and medications. The storm had broken the windows of the Days' rented duplex, forcing them from their home to the Northeast Armory and then to the Drake Hotel shelter in downtown Minneapolis. But the couple counted themselves lucky.

"We're going to recover slowly but surely," Jayme Day said. "We'll make it."

In another area of the Convention Center, the strain was beginning to show on Ester Carroll's face. Since the tornado tore the roof off her Fremont Avenue apartment, Carroll, 36, has been living in a truck, along with her boyfriend, 19-year-old son, two neighbors and their four children.

Carroll had waited five hours, she said. The Salvation Army was only up to No. 50, and her little slip of paper said 215. Her sandwich was uneaten.

"Right now, it just feels like a bad dream, and I can't wake up from it," she said.

About 300 to 400 people have been helped with housing so far, said Tom Streitz, Minneapolis' top housing development official. About 30 to 40 displaced families were sent to the Drake, and Hennepin County was providing rental assistance and vouchers to help families check into motels, he said.

Some 61 people spent Monday night at the Northeast Armory, down from 267 the night before. Some found shelter with relatives, but some also were staying in their damaged homes to guard their belongings.

Staff writers Bill McAuliffe, James Eli Shiffer and Anthony Lonetree contributed to this report.

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