MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A typhoon thousands of miles away could have an impact on a small Minnesota town.
Milan, Minnesota, has a population of 350 people.
More than half of the town is originally from Micronesia, a group of islands located near The Philippines.
“Before it was hard because it was just us,” Erika Raymond said. “Now it feels like home because we have a lot of families here.”
It was a member of the peace corps who encouraged Raymond’s family to move from a tiny island in the Pacific to a tiny town in Minnesota, leaving behind tropical island weather for frigid winters and new opportunities.
“The small town — I like it because it’s quiet, and the people are nice, too,” said Michael Elias, who also grew up in Micronesia.
Fifteen years ago, Micronesian families began to arrive in Milan, a town known for its Scandinavian heritage.
They got jobs in different cities around the area.
Now more than half of Milan, about 190 residents, are from Micronesia and another population boost could be coming.
On April 1, a super typhoon battered the islands.
“It’s really sad, and I tried to talk to my uncle to convince him to come out here where everything is better,” Raymond said.
In particular, the typhoon destroyed more than 90 percent of the homes on the island of Chuuk.
Drinking water was contaminated and decades worth of banana trees and breadfruit, two major exports, were lost.
“I’ve been talking to my family, and they say all the crops are all gone,” Elias said.
Already, some families affected by the typhoon are coming here.
On Sunday, five people who lost their home left Micronesia for Milan.
And that’s likely just the start.
It’s hard to say how many more will arrive.
But officials said it could take 60 years for the crops to come back on the island of Chuuk.
Raymond hopes to see more of her family move here.
Until then, she and others are doing what they can to help.
“We’ve been sending money every week to buy rice, because that’s the only thing they can buy,” said Erika.
The first week after the typhoon, families in Milan raised about $6,000 to send to friends and family in Micronesia.
There’s also concern that ocean waters could eventually rise and overtake some of the islands.