It looks like Hurricane Katrina evacuees will not be heading north to Camp Ripley.
Terry Sluss, Crow Wing County commissioner and county emergency management designee, said Monday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has suspended all its air traffic flights for hurricane evacuees.
FEMA notified the state Monday of the news. Officials had expected a group of about 300 Tuesday at the National Guard's Camp Ripley, near Little Falls.
"The longer we go the more of a chance we won't get any people at Camp Ripley," said Sluss.
Sluss said he heard that FEMA may transport survivors to the St. Cloud airport and then to the Twin Cities metro area where housing is available for them. However, he said this has not been finalized by FEMA yet.
As a result of FEMA's action, the temporary shelter being set up at Camp Ripley will be shut down and the focus of state and relief group efforts in Minnesota will be shifted to long-term settlement of survivors who get to the state by other means.
"When called upon, Minnesota responded, as we always do, with great enthusiasm and an outpouring of support," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said in a statement. "In any situation, it's important to be prepared and we showed that we were ready and willing to help out. Minnesota stands ready to assist those who continue to be in need and those who have already made it to our state."
Camp Ripley could still serve as an entry point should the need arise, officials said, and could be ready again given 48 hours notice.
In the meantime, officials said they are preparing to establish a state assistance center in St. Paul to help evacuees who got here on their own or through other aid groups. They hope to have it up and operating by Thursday.
As of Monday afternoon, 710 hurricane survivors had relocated to Minnesota and registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency here.
The applications are made by heads of households, so it's possible the number may be even higher, state officials said.
The state and the Red Cross have identified 3,000 housing units that could be available to people for up to 18 months.
Earlier Monday, the state's executive council -- including Pawlenty, the state attorney general, the secretary of state and the state auditor -- approved a waiver giving evacuees immediate access to health and welfare benefits.
Without the waiver, they would have had to wait 30 days for such benefits.
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