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FEMA begins assessment in Wadena

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Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were in Wadena, Minn., Tuesday to begin assessing tornado damage to homes and private businesses.

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FEMA officials are working with the state of Minnesota and the U.S. Small Business Administration to do an individual preliminary damage assessment.

"We're really looking at the impacts to homeowners, renters and businesses," said FEMA spokesman Mark Peterson.

The teams visually inspect homes to determine if they appear inhabitable and ask questions of the homeowners, he said.

"We're really asking them the extent of the damage that they experienced, how long think they might be displaced and whether or not they have insurance," Peterson said.

Starting today, FEMA will begin assessing damage to public buildings, such as schools, government-owned buildings and community centers, he said.

The public assessment also considers the cost of overtime the city incurs and the types of debris removal, Peterson said.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty will use the information to determine if he'll request a presidential disaster declaration and what types of assistance are needed, Peterson said.

Wadena city officials include 268 buildings in a damage assessment. Twenty-six of those buildings were destroyed, 60 had major damage, 91 had minor damage and 91 were "affected."

Through the end of Monday, more than 1,277 truckloads of debris had been removed from Wadena.

Classes resume today for the Wadena campus of Minnesota State Community and Technical College, which has major roof damage from Thursday's tornado.

The damage is temporarily covered with tarps and plywood and crews have been busy getting the college ready for today, said President Ann Valentine.

"People who have seen the campus over the last couple of days would be amazed at the improvement," she said.

Employees will report to the campus today, and several classes have been relocated to Wadena's elementary school, the Central Lakes College in Staples and Verndale High School. Check www.minnesota.edu for the schedule.

Meanwhile, officials with the Wadena-Deer Creek School District are weighing options for the fall.

The school that houses 500 students in grades seven through 12 was devastated by the tornado. Some parts of the school are so unsafe that structural engineers will not enter them.

Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom has been promised a report by July 7 by the school's insurance provider on whether the school can be repaired or rebuilt.

Officials are exploring options for a temporary location for the school when classes start Sept. 7, including the college and St. Ann's Catholic School.

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The Wadena Pioneer Journal contributed to this report

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