WALKER -- The Region 5 Development Commission has compiled a wealth of information on Cass County as the foundation for creating a Hazard Mitigation Plan.
The plan now is in a public comment stage.
The region used information from Cass County, the state of Minnesota, the National Weather Service and other federal databases to create a history of fire, flood, major storm and hazardous material spills as they have affected county residents, property and environment over the last 30 to 100 years.
The plan then suggests which agencies might take future action to reduce future risks for injuries to people, damage to property, and damage to the county's ground water and surface environments.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided funding to make the assessment possible.
The plan anticipates tornadoes and high straight-line winds are most likely to cause injury or death to people and major property damage in the future, with lightning, hail or flash flooding to have only minimal impact here.
According to the plan, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noted 15 tornadoes hit Cass County since 1954, all between 1964 and 1991. A dozen of the 13 tornado-related deaths and 74 of the 75 injuries recorded were from two Aug. 6, 1969, tornadoes, one of which is the county's only recorded F4 category tornado. That tornado struck the Roosevelt Lake area near Outing.
There is a list of severe thunderstorms to strike the county between 1970 and 2003. To qualify, storms must have 3/4-inch hail and/or winds exceeding 50 knots (57.5 miles per hour) and/or a tornado. While wind velocity records were not available before 1996, there were four severe storms hitting the county between 1996 and 1998 with winds up to 70 knots. Major hailstorms also are listed separately.
Wildfires are projected to have a potentially limited to high impact on people in future years, with limited property damage, depending upon the area of the county hit. Infectious diseases could cause a major risk to people.
Cass County findings
The Region 5 Development Commission compiled extensive research in forming a Hazard Mitigation Plan. Findings include:
-- Information on the average rainfall from 1890 to 2000, which is 25 inches annually.
-- Data on lake ordinary high water marks, land uses, where the major parks and recreation areas are, ambulance and fire service districts, law enforcement response areas and historic sites.
-- Animal feedlots and manure pits have declined from 116 in 1991 to only 35 today.
-- Of 707 underground storage tanks for oil, gas and other chemicals in the county, 20 have been closed, 390 removed, 22 reconditioned and 275 remain in active use.
NOAA weather service recorded no deaths or injuries as a result of 33 major snow and ice storms in Cass between 1993 and 2004, though the plan suggests there is future limited potential for injuries, deaths and property damage to result from winter storms and freezing temperatures.
It cites a high potential for more deaths, injuries and property damage from structure fires.
Spills of industrial and agricultural chemicals, medicines and materials used in research, and consumer goods pose a risk in the form of explosives, flammable and combustible substances, poisons and radioactive materials, especially as materials may be transported across roads and rail lines in the county.
U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center recorded 22 hazardous materials spills in Cass County from 1991 through 2003. Risks are highest from major traffic accidents and train derailments.
There are 34 dams in Cass County, all having a potential for failure and to cause flooding, which could cause injuries, deaths or property damage.
The plan views ground water contamination and depletion as a potential high risk to people in the county, partially due to failing sewer systems and the unknown factor of how many abandoned water wells have not been properly capped. Surface water and land contamination also pose risks to ground water.
While the plan views bomb threats and terrorism unlikely in Cass County, the potential for high risk to people and property would occur if an attack were made.
The plan anticipates a more realistic threat to people here from ongoing crimes against people and property, drunk driving and methamphetamine labs.
Suggestions to mitigate future hazards in Cass County are followed by detailed census data by city and township of populations, education levels, housing heating, market values, economic development, poverty level, industry and transportation.
Anyone wishing to comment on the plan should address those comments in writing to Region Five Development Commission, Attention: Timothy Schmidt, 611 Iowa Ave. N.E., Staples, MN 56479.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.