Jacinda Hodge had never filed a claim before her one-level Cook, Minn., home took on nearly 3 feet of water from the Little Fork River last month. When her insurance company told her it would cover none of her family's extensive damage, she was shocked.

"We pay hundreds of dollars a year in homeowners insurance; what exactly does it cover? Why are we paying for it?" she asked.

Private property owners in wide swaths of Minnesota who were devastated by June's intense storms — some experiencing 8 inches of rain within a few hours — are ripping out carpet and floors, replacing appliances and furniture and mitigating mold — and are left to rebuild lives with little or no federal and state aid in addition to the lack of coverage.

"I don't want to sugarcoat it, it's tragic and it's frustrating, and it's going to take a while," Gov. Tim Walz said while touring the washed-out Rapidan Dam near Mankato last week.

County and state officials across Minnesota are asking home and business owners to photograph damage to buildings and submit reports for potential property tax relief.

President Joe Biden recently declared a disaster for 22 Minnesota counties, opening the gates for federal aid. More counties could be added as flood waters recede, allowing more accurate damage assessments.

The state is tracking 47 counties affected by flooding, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner Bob Jacobson told reporters Tuesday. The Minnesota Department of Commerce says fewer than 7,500 Minnesotans have flood coverage.

While homeowners are eligible for assistance, it's not designed to pay for any sort of major rebuild from flooding.

'I'd like to never go through this again'

Ryan and Steph Horner bought the 85-year-old Comet Theater in Cook in 2023. The oldest continuously running theater in Minnesota was supposed to be showing the fourth installment of the popular "Despicable Me" franchise this week.

But water rose more than 5 feet inside the theater space. Now, 140 seats have been painstakingly removed, nearly 300,000 gallons of water pumped out by the local fire department and walls are demolished.

The Horners don't have flood insurance, like most Minnesotans. Most who have it buy flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, backed by the federal government. A few hundred Minnesotans have private flood insurance.

The industry hasn't included flood coverage for decades, after losing money on it in the 1950s and 1960s, said Dan Bryden, of the state Commerce Department's enforcement division.

Some property owners who live in high-risk areas are required by mortgage companies to have it. But as flooding outside of flood zones increases, "I wouldn't say there's anyone who shouldn't at least consider it," Bryden said. Homeowners should still check their policies, because some types of flooding, such as through a sewer backup, could be covered.

In Waterville, Minn., where the town's two big lakes nearly became one last month, residents are still struggling to find out how they'll pay for everything.

Sarah Smith and her husband, Tim, live in the flood plain off Lake Tetonka. They bought flood insurance in the past, but they hadn't had to use it. The 2014 floods brought on by record rains that cost more than $40 million in public infrastructure damage only brought water up to about 10 feet away from the house but never breached any sandbags.

Waterville and the Smiths were hit worse this year. The water came up out of Lake Tetonka through the Smith home's crawlspace and just kept rising, forcing them to temporarily leave.

The Smiths are lucky compared with some of their neighbors who don't have insurance. But water still pools in their yard and their driveway is flooded. Sarah estimates it will still take at least two years to recover.

Aside from precious memorabilia lost, the Smiths say they need to pull out the drywall, replace the built-in cabinets and tile flooring. They've also started looking into construction companies that can lift their house.

"I'd like to never have to go through this again," Sarah said.

In nearby Rice County, at least 200 residents and seven businesses have reported flood damage thus far. Joe Johnson, Rice County's emergency management director, said reports are coming in even from people who don't live near the Cannon River — the constant water is overflowing existing drainage.

"There's nowhere for the water to go," Johnson said. "The ground is so saturated that it's coming up through the basement floor."

'It'll be rough for a while'

The Comet Theater is considered a near total loss, while still structurally sound. The historic landmark, like other flooded Cook businesses, relies on summer lake crowds to make money, especially vital after a snowless winter kept snowmobilers and ice anglers home. Everyone is hoping aid flows to businesses, as well as public infrastructure, Ryan Horner said.

"Everyone in town is worried we're going to get put on the backburner because we are a small town, four hours away from Minneapolis," he said. "We worry we will get forgotten about."

The Hodge family in Cook must gut its entire home. Jacinda and her husband, Micah, will live in a borrowed camper with two of their children, a cat and a dog all summer on land they own for their Norse-themed Festival of Skalds. They still plan to hold it, despite losing tools and materials to flood damage in their garage and sheds.

"It'll be rough for a while," Jacinda Hodge said. "But our family was all safe. We can tough it out."

'The challenge is just beginning'

In Jackson, Minn., city officials in a recent meeting signaled the town's shift from crisis to cleanup and recovery. The Des Moines River rose more than 16 feet in June, the National Weather Service said. The water swamped yards and basements and shut down Hwy. 71 as part of the worst flooding in 55 years.

A thousand volunteers helped during the crisis, with some even delivering sandbags by canoe. But even as floodwaters recede, such efforts must continue perhaps for months, Ted Carnahan, a Lutheran pastor, reminded residents.

"For some people in our community, the challenge is just beginning," Carnahan said. "They're going to be facing the challenges of cleanup, of inspections, of trying to enter their damaged property."

Doug and Steve Bass are among those in Jackson still picking up the pieces after floodwaters filled their home on River Street on June 23. The two brothers were forced to flee, each stuffing clothes and a toothbrush into garbage bags. By daybreak, they saw their basement was completely flooded, and their garage was filled with 15 inches of water.

The cost of getting back to normal will be anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000, said their sister Karen Zoch, who has been helping them clean up along with her husband Paul.

The Bass brothers don't have flood insurance and they don't expect their homeowners' insurance to cover more than $1,000 out of their expenses. That's not nearly enough to cover professional cleaning and mold mitigation and to replace their furnace, water heater and water softener.

Jackson city officials said earlier this week that for now, FEMA is not providing assistance for individuals and businesses. County officials say FEMA will determine whether its individual assistance program will be offered. If it is, residents can apply to see if they're eligible.

Nonetheless, many residents are already studiously taking pictures of their flood damage and keeping receipts in advance of FEMA aid, Paul Zoch said.

"By the grace of God, hopefully FEMA can come through and help them," Paul Zoch said. "But it's a matter of how long and how much."