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AUSTIN EDITION - BOX; FEMA teams

Three Federal Emergency Management Agency teams will be assessing flood damage today in Austin and Mower County.

The teams include officials from FEMA, the Small Business Administration and state, as well as local officials, Sam Ventura of FEMA's regional office in Chicago said this morning. The teams include people experienced in construction and engineering. "They often see things that homeowners miss," he said.

A damage assessment will be sent to the governor's office and will be used in the state's request for federal assistance. The governor must seek a presidential disaster declaration by submitting a written request through the FEMA regional office.

"This process is as important to the people here as to people in Florida or Alabama, and it makes no difference whether the damage was caused by 2 inches of water or 2 feet," Ventura said. "We will get all the figures together today."

He was less definite about how long it would take to get a presidential declaration.

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The teams will visit those areas hardest hit by the flood and will talk to people about their needs. Information also will come from city staff members and the Red Cross.

Mayor Bonnie Rietz said there will be a town meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at Ellis Elementary School at which there will be information about the flood recovery.

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