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GRAND FORKS, N.D.-With much of North Dakota's flood-ravaged Red River area still under water, many property owners have been unable to determine the full extent of their losses.

While retailers and other businesses in the heavily flooded region said late last week it was too early to estimate the extent of property damage and business interruption losses, it was clear many would suffer large losses.

A fire that swept through Grand Forks during the height of the flood added to the devastation. Among 11 buildings burned were the First National Bank and the building housing the Grand Forks Herald newspaper, which continued to publish under an arrangement with the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press.

US West Inc. was able to maintain telecommunications services in the area by sandbagging and pumping water away from its facilities.

Facilities at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks late last week were being prepared for use as a shelter to house flood victims. Meanwhile, the university had canceled the remaining two weeks of the spring semester and graduation.

Automobile dealers in Grand Forks were waiting for flood waters to recede before they could reach their operations to survey damage.

"We can't tell how many lost their stores," said Bob Lamp, executive vp of the Automobile Dealers of North Dakota, the state's Fargo-based dealers association. "They can't get to them to tell."

Mr. Lamp said there are about nine dealers in the Grand Forks area, and it is unclear to what extent they are affected.

Insurance coverage for property damage and inventory lost in the flood will be determined by the type of policies dealers purchased, Mr. Lamp said. "For garage and liability insurance, I suspect they would have to have a flood rider on the policy. Each dealer selects their own packages."

A spokeswoman for the Target chain of retail stores said its location in Grand Forks was untouched by flood waters but closed temporarily. She had no estimates of revenue lost because of the disaster and said merchandise was being sold at a 10% discount as a goodwill gesture to help flood victims.

A Grand Forks Sears, Roebuck & Co. store also escaped damage but lost an undetermined amount of business because of the flood, according to a spokeswoman.

Vaaler Insurance Inc., one of North Dakota's largest insurance agencies, was forced to relocate its Grand Forks operations to its Fargo office. There, despite the addition of four new telephone lines, calls have been constant from both business and residential insurance customers, said Shirley Solberg, manager of Vaaler's Fargo office.

"Our situation, as it stands, it's probably too early to tell," Ms. Solberg said. "We definitely have 500 flood claims in the Grand Forks/Fargo area."

Ms. Solberg said her agency also has received about 400 claims so far for sewer backup and sump pump failure and about 100 auto claims, "but we expect significantly more auto claims than that."

Adjusters from the National Flood Insurance Program have been working steadily on claims since April 21, she said. Though flood victims in a small portion of Grand Forks were able to begin visiting their property late last week, most of the area remained under water, making it impossible to get an accurate picture of the extent of damages so far.

"Talking with the National Flood people, their adjusters just have not been able to examine the damage, so it's been impossible to set reserves at this point," Ms. Solberg said. Adjusters hoped they would be able to begin inspecting damage early this week, she said.

State Farm Insurance Group, the largest underwriter of homeowners coverage in North Dakota, had received more than 1,000 claims late last week, according to a spokeswoman who was touring the flood-ravaged area.

The insurer is sending 27 adjusters into the area to help manage claims that are expected from many of the 3,200 homeowners State Farm insures in Grand Forks County. Another 5,500 homeowners in Cass County, which encompasses Fargo, have policies with the insurer, but damage is expected to be lighter in that area.

The spokeswoman could not provide estimates on how high State Farm's losses would climb. "We only know it will be in the millions," she said.

Jo Zschomler, risk manager for North Dakota state government, said the most extensive damages to state property will likely be those to facilities at the University of North Dakota.

Much public property around the state including the university does have some flood coverage through the North Dakota Fire and Tornado Fund, a public entity self-insurance program, and fund officials are looking for ways to maximize the amount of coverage they can provide public entity flood victims.

"The fire and tornado fund insures governmental entities for buildings and contents," said Bob Olson, administrator of the fund. "Four years ago we expanded it and we gave limited flood coverage."

Flood coverage is $10,000 per occurrence. "That's basically per policyholder," Mr. Olson said. "But what we're doing now is we're looking at using our liberalization clause and seeing if we can look at per building and do it that way. But if we look at it that way, we're looking at our financial aspect and how solvent we are," she said.

Hard-hit Grand Forks, Welsh and Pembina counties in the northeastern portion of the state all are covered, and the fund has 88 public entity policyholders in those three counties, Mr. Olson said. "So if all of them have damage, we're talking $880,000."

If the fund sought to apply coverage limits on a per-building basis rather than per-policyholder, it would be looking at covering 1,121 insured buildings in the three counties, the fund's administrator said, "so if they all have damage, our exposure there is $11 million, and we don't have $11 million."

The fund covers 355 buildings at University of North Dakota alone, and a total of 651 insured buildings in Grand Forks County, Mr. Olson said. "Right now it's all under water. We can't even get in there to take a look."

The fund has reserves of $16.5 million, but by law must maintain reserves of $12 million or must assess policyholders to get the fund back above that minimum. "I know right now without counting the flood we have open claims reserved at about $4 million," Mr. Olson said.

The fund is scheduled to collect about $2.7 million from policyholders when the new policy year begins July 1, but even with that it appears unlikely it will be able to cover its policyholders at a $10,000 per-building level. So fund officials are looking for other ways to assist public entity flood victims.

One way will be to find other ways to assist policyholders, such as taking a lead role in working with contractors involved in the flood cleanup.

The Fire and Tornado Fund covers all the public school districts in the state except three that have chosen to opt out of the program, including the Grand Forks public school district. "They've never been in it for some reason," Mr. Olson said. "We've given them plenty of opportunity."

Grand Forks school officials could not be reached for comment.

Industrial Risk Insurers had not received claims as of late last week from its approximately four policyholders in the flooded area. Any water damage is expected to be "less than the attachment point of our coverage," a spokesman for the insurer said.

Norwest Corp. of Minneapolis said late last week that its 11 banks in the area were undamaged by the flood waters, and all were expected to reopen by the end of the week.

Coverage written through Norwest's Vermont-based captive Superior Guaranty Insurance Co. will cover lost revenue and extra expenses related to the flooding, according to Jill Combs, assistant risk manager at Norwest.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said about 25,000 flood victims in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota had registered for disaster assistance as of late last week.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent about 400 workers to the three states. In Grand Forks, the Corps worked last week to restore operations at a water treatment facility and complete a ring levee around a hospital and nursing home. Levees also were being built to prevent flooding in areas not yet touched by the waters.

FEMA said about 30,000 homes and businesses lost electrical power, in some cases because local officials ordered electrical and gas service cut off when areas were evacuated.