AUSTIN EDITION FEMA opens Owatonna office for flood victims

By Roxana Orellana

The Federal Emergency Management Agency services opened a regional office today in Owatonna to handle flood relief.

Flood coordinator officer Thomas Costello said the location for the office was chosen to make communication easier with state officials at the Capitol and with people in affected areas.

"The individuals who were (affected) don't have to go anywhere," Costello said. "All they have to do is pick up the phone. There are no requirements to go to a disaster recovery center."


FEMA plans to also open a couple of walk-in disaster recovery centers. Also in the plans is a mobile recovery center that would go from town to town.

The reason for the stations is for those people who feel more comfortable talking to someone face to face, Costello said.

The process of registering starts with calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), or 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing and speech impaired. Lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Officials said the volume of calls slows down after 6 p.m.

Each caller will be asked general information about income, insurance, property damage and housing needs.

The caller will get an application number. A few days later, the homeowner will get a call from a FEMA inspector to set up a visit to the property.

At the home, the inspector will look at disaster-related damage.

The types of assistance available include temporary housing, repairs for damage, replacement and other needs as a result of the disaster.

Low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.


The Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture will handle damage to farm crops.

"If you suffered a loss, it's imperative that you call, even if you have contacted other agencies," Costello said. "(You) won't get help unless you've been properly logged in the system."

Federal and local officials urged residents to contact their insurance agents first and get their furnaces and water heaters fixed or replaced.

The federal disaster declaration will allow flood-affected people to apply for grants or low-interest loans.

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