Disaster preparedness
St. Louis County could be better prepared for flooding events

When Mother Nature goes on a rampage, there’s little that people can do to stop the damage. But even so, Kabetogama resort operators and homeowners should be able to depend on their county to provide whatever aid it can.

To be fair, St. Louis County is assisting folks now that the magnitude of this natural disaster has hit home. Public Works hauled in six truckloads of sand over the weekend and county staff has coordinated with the Army Corps of Engineers, Voyageurs National Park, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and local volunteers to ensure there are plenty of filled sandbags ready should the waters continue to rise in the days ahead.

But Kabetogama residents can’t help feeling a bit neglected when their initial calls for help didn’t trigger much of a response. As one resident noted, sometimes it seems as if the county thinks its boundaries end at Orr. “We need to get a big map that shows them we’re part of St. Louis County, too,” she said half in jest.

Indeed, part of Kabetogama’s decision to form a township was to establish a stronger identity in St. Louis County and set up a board that could communicate with the county as issues arose. But that hasn’t panned out as township residents hoped it would. The current crisis is an opportunity to change that relationship.

There are promising signs that the county is realizing the opportunity. Officials indicated they are talking about stockpiling sandbags in the north to assure a quicker response should another flooding event occur. That’s a good start, but the county should try to find other ways to stay in touch and on top of things in Kabetogama.

Indeed, county officials should be taking a fresh look at disaster preparedness throughout the county, which has been hit by two major flooding events in the past two years. Extreme weather is happening with increasing frequency just about everywhere, and officials can’t let “the way we’ve always done things” govern their actions in the future.

The current crisis also serves as a challenge for the new District 4 county commissioner, who could play a key role in mending relations with the township.

The county can’t control the weather. They can’t divert winds or stop the rain. But officials also don’t have to wait until a disaster reaches epic proportions to lend a hand. Hopefully, this episode has driven home that point.

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