166 million

North Minneapolis tornado toll: $166 million and likely to rise

As they walked through the rubble of the worst tornado to hit Minneapolis in 30 years, city officials said Monday that the toll of the devastation is at least $166 million and likely to rise as they fully assess just how many homes and businesses have been damaged or destroyed.

Under mostly sunny skies, hundreds of residents left homeless by Sunday’s tornado sifted through the ruins of their homes and neighborhood amid a treacherous landscape of downed trees and power lines.

More than 600 buildings will need major repairs and 35 homes were so badly damaged that they can no longer be occupied, city officials said.

After touring the area with Mayor R.T. Rybak and other leaders, Gov. Mark Dayton called the situation a “terrible tragedy” and said the state will offer whatever help north Minneapolis needs to recover, including a special session to consider disaster aid.

“God bless the lives of those who have been affected,” said Dayton, who toured the North Side with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, state Sen. Linda Higgins, City Council President Barb Johnson and other council members.

Federal Emergency Management Administration representatives also were assessing the damage from the biggest tornado to hit the city since June 14, 1981, when one hit Edina, Minneapolis and Roseville, killing one person and injuring 83.

As residents of one of Minneapolis’ poorest neighborhoods cleaned up, the toll was becoming more clear. “I saw people whose lives have been twisted just like their homes,” Klobuchar said.

The storm killed one person, and a second man died while helping neighbors clean up. Forty-eight people were injured, none seriously.

Youth worker Walter Anderson says he worries mostly about schoolchildren and young people on the north side, who he says are in shock.

“These kids are walking around with their mouths open, not knowing what to do, where to go. It’s a bit much. The inner-city doesn’t get the chance to see things like this often.”

Making it more complicated is the fact that north Minneapolis was already struggling with a housing crisis. In the four-square mile area that the city deems hardest hit, more than 270 homes were foreclosed in the past year.

Despite all of its challenges, the north side is home to plenty of strong churches, nonprofits, and neighborhoods. They’ve all come out in force to help with the recovery.

Monday morning, hundreds of volunteers gathered at a community center for a morning prayer before heading out in teams to clear trees and hand out water and food.

One of the organizers, Marque Jensen, works for Sanctuary Community Development Corporation. Jensen says some of the affected blocks had more vacant homes than occupied ones. As devastating as the storm was, he says many want to see rebirth in some of the most blighted areas.

It’s amazing how much devastation can be wrought in such a short period of time.  And for those of us who know the north side, it is devastating.  I know it’s nothing compared to what the people of Joplin are suffering through right now.  I can’t even imagine the pain and horror they are in.  I can only take my heavy heart and multiply it times a billion.

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