A final sweep of volunteers will push through north Minneapolis next Saturday, city officials said, in what they're billing as the final stage of debris removal from last Sunday's tornado damage.
Heavy-equipment operators will work in the week ahead of the volunteer day to clear the streets of the massive tree trunks and heavier branches left by scores of shade trees ripped from the ground by the storm.
The volunteer day will require 2,000 people, but no more, said city officials. The city will provide food, water and transportation into and out of the neighborhoods for those who sign up.
Anyone wishing to volunteer should call the city's information line at 311. The line will remain open through the weekend from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will be closed Monday. Those who don't sign up can't work.
On Friday, Gov. Mark Dayton sent a letter to President Obama, asking for a major federal disaster declaration for Hennepin and Anoka counties.
Teams including members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency were in the area over the last two days, and preliminary assessments of damage to public infrastructure and government-financed cleanup costs are estimated at $16.33 million, Dayton’s office said.
The governor requested public assistance, as well as individual assistance for affected residents in Hennepin County, where preliminary assessments show 25 homes were destroyed, another 92 had major damage and 328 had minor damage.
"I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected local governments, and that supplementary federal assistance is necessary," the governor wrote.
Since the tornado struck Sunday, about 3,000 volunteers have helped with cleanup. Urban Homeworks, a housing organization that has helped coordinate the cleanup so far, estimated that volunteers have helped remove debris from more than 3,500 homes.
Some volunteers continued to wander through some of the worst-hit areas on Friday, looking for things to do, said North Side resident Ron Goldbeck. He had no work to offer the volunteers because his house escaped much of the damage, but neighbors as near as a block away were hit hard. Goldbeck said he ignored the storm sirens Sunday afternoon.
"I was a nonbeliever," he said. He looked out his window but didn't start moving to the basement until he heard an approaching roar. "By the time I made it to the basement, it [the tornado] was gone," he said.
He emerged from his house on Newton Avenue North to find fallen trees blocking most of the surrounding streets.
"That's as close as I ever want to get," he said.
Scrap collectors drove the alleys in his neighborhood Friday afternoon, including south Minneapolis resident Nancy Luken. Her battered pickup was loaded with pipes, sheet metal and other odds and ends, but it still wasn't enough, she said. The metal recyclers she uses along Second Avenue North don't pay anything until loads hit 500 pounds, and she was about 75 pounds short.
"The damage here is amazing," said Luken, who said it was her first day collecting metal scrap in the tornado-hit areas. The night before, she had passed through the neighborhoods but saw too many downed wires. "We were nervous we might light up," she said. "I'm serious!"
Scrap collectors can take anything a private homeowner allows. Scrap metal from public land and facilities belongs to the city.
Luken said she didn't expect a big paycheck at the end of the day. Most of the scrap recyclers pay $50 to $75 for 500 pounds, she said.
A temporary shelter for families displaced by the storm moved on Friday morning from the Northeast Armory to the North Commons Recreation Center at 1801 James Av. N. The shelter has been run by the city and the American Red Cross. The Red Cross said it would shelter residents and provide them with food, health services and long-term recovery planning.
The recreation center will be closed to the general public while used as a temporary Red Cross shelter, but the center's outdoor facilities, including baseball and soccer fields, were expected to remain open to the public.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329
GETTING HELP, GIVING HELP
If you need help, contact the Red Cross at 612-871-7676. To support Red Cross disaster relief, visit redcrossmn.org or call 612-460-3700.