Community Foundation Invests in Protecting Winneshiek County and its Residents

Winneshiek County Community Foundation
November 2, 2017

Winneshiek County has been hit hard by natural disasters throughout its history. Flash flooding after heavy rains deluged the county in just hours in August and September 2016 impacted communities across the county, displacing people from homes, and destroying property and infrastructure. 2008 also saw major flooding to communities in the county.

In a one-year timeframe, Winneshiek County has received three Presidential Disaster Declarations, all keeping Sean Snyder, Winneshiek County Emergency Management Coordinator, busy in his two-year tenure in the position. With these experiences under his belt, Snyder has some perspective when it comes to his role and the role of Winneshiek County Emergency Management which serves the entire county.

“Preplanning is my main responsibility,” said Snyder. “With proper planning, we can mitigate some damage and lessen overall cost associated with disaster events.”

With the history of flooding in the county, Snyder and city official proposed the purchase of a portable sandbagging machine and lighting. Through a $12,000 grant from the Winneshiek County Community Foundation along with funding from the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors and Luther College, the sandbagging machine made its demonstration debut on August 29.

The sandbagging machine, with a small trained group of volunteers, can produce 3,400 sandbags an hour. That can be compared to the approximately 300 bags per hour produced with shovels and many volunteers.

Snyder says plans include utilizing county shops along the river when flooding may occur to produce sandbags at those stations for local resident to pick up and use to protect private property. The county will also use sandbags produced to protect county assets.

“The additional sandbags will allow us to better protect infrastructure and city blocks,” said Snyder. “The portability of the machine and speed with which we will be able to produce bags will be invaluable.”

Snyder believes these two new pieces of equipment will prove instrumental in protecting the people and property of Winneshiek County the first time they are put to the test in the field. Although he hopes that day never comes.

“It is a great piece of equipment that we hope sits for 30 years unused,” said Snyder. “I look at it as an insurance policy for our communities.”

Snyder is thankful to have such a policy, and acknowledge the Winneshiek County Community Foundation’s role in making the dream a reality. “Without the Community Foundation grant, we couldn’t have done it.”