Polk County Receives Final FEMA Check After Massive 2019 Storm Cleanup

Balsam Lake, Wisconsin, October, 25, 2022—Polk County has deposited the last Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant check covering the County’s expenses for the July 18, 2019 blowdown storm. This check covers the administrative costs incurred by county staff during the three-year cleanup process, bringing the total value of the grant to over $915,000.

The 2019 storm devastated a large part of Polk County. Eleven local towns and villages, Polk County and the Polk Burnett Electric Cooperative had enough damages to meet the minimum to qualify for FEMA Public Assistance grants. During the extensive response and recovery process, these entities tracked costs and worked with Polk County Emergency Management at the Sheriff’s Office to request funding from FEMA and Wisconsin Emergency Management. FEMA grants covered 75% of the costs, and the State covered 12.5%. The county share was the remaining 12.5%, but thanks in part to volunteer labor that contributed to the County’s in-kind match, Polk County was able to reclaim over 95% of their storm costs.

Most of the County’s expenses were from woody debris. 62,445 cubic yards of material were collected, ground into mulch and sent for energy recovery—enough to cover 27 football fields at 12 inches deep.

Cleanup Pic

“The Polk County Highway Department and Public Works staff put hundreds of hours into cleaning up roads, operating debris collection sites and rebuilding from the damage of that single storm,” said Lisa McMahon, Emergency Management Coordinator at Polk County. “They played a large role in storm recovery. Thanks also goes out to the emergency responders, volunteers, and dedicated county employees who provided incredible service to our residents.”

Following the storm, the Polk County Community Services Division opened a reception center and recruited volunteers led by the Department of Natural Resources to perform debris removal. The Wisconsin National Guard was also called in to assist with removing trees from roadways. Polk County Snowmobile clubs, along with the Environmental Services Division, cleaned up the trails so they could be used that winter.

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