Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has declared Baxter, Conway, Independence, Izard, Pope, Randolph, Sharp, Stone, Union and Van Buren Counties state disaster areas due to the damage caused by powerful tornadoes and violent thunderstorms on Feb. 5.
Gov. Beebe toured damage sites in Pope, Van Buren, Baxter and Stone Counties, meeting with storm victims and local officials who are coordinating recovery efforts.
“The loss of life and property we saw from these storms is terrible, but Arkansas will rebuild. We always do,” Beebe said. “Everywhere we went, we saw volunteers pouring in to help their friends, neighbors and, oftentimes complete strangers, get back on their feet.”
The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management is establishing locations for Disaster Recovery Centers. Beebe has also signed Arkansas’ formal request for federal disaster assistance. He spoke by phone with President George W. Bush, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator R. David Paulison. All three offered federal resources, Beebe’s office said in a press announcement, and FEMA assessment teams will be on the ground in Arkansas on Thursday.
The disaster declaration releases $250,000 from the Governor’s Disaster Fund to be used by the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management through the Individual Assistance Program. Affected residents in all 10 counties can apply for assistance by phone at 1-877-828-3362.
Ark. Secretary of State Charlie Daniels said four counties out of Arkansas’s 75 counties have not tabulated their “Super Tuesday” presidential primary election results because of the storms. They are Craighead, Sharp, Stone, and Van Buren. 67 counties have reported preliminary and unofficial results into the Arkansas Secretary of State’s election night reporting Web site, www.arelections.org.
According to the Arkansas Insurance Department as of Feb. 7, there was one confirmed fatality in Baxter County, two confirmed fatalities in Conway County, two confirmed fatalities in Izard County, four confirmed fatalities in Pope County, one confirmed fatality in Stone County, and three confirmed fatalities in Van Buren County as a result of the storms. In addition, multiple injuries were reported across the affected areas.
The town of Gassville in Baxter County was among the hardest hit. The insurance department estimated that 75 percent of the town suffered heavy damage. Among the preliminary estimates: more than 300 homes damaged, 120 of which are are uninhabitable; 20 to 30 businesses damaged; and no service stations or restaurants are operating in the area. The local coordinator reports approximately one mile long area of damage, according to the insurance department report.
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