Arkansas seeks federal disaster relief after winter storm earlier this year
A tree made top-heavy by ice tumbled into the side of a house in Pulaski County, Arkansas, during the winter storm of Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 2023. The tree was uprooted as soils became saturated. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo)
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has asked President Joe Biden to issue a disaster declaration for 13 counties that experienced the worst of a four-day winter storm that hit the state in late January and early February.
The request for federal public assistance covers 11 counties in southern Arkansas — Bradley, Calhoun, Cleveland, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Grant, Jefferson, Lincoln, Nevada and Ouachita — and Searcy and Stone counties in northern Arkansas.
“The sheer magnitude of this event created disastrous amounts of debris, caused extensive power outages, and resulted in the death of two Arkansans and the injury of many others,” Sanders said in a statement Monday afternoon. “We have determined that these storms are of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary federal assistance is necessary.”
Below-freezing temperatures and frequent precipitation swept through Arkansas from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3. The National Weather Service office in North Little Rock issued severe winter storm warnings to several counties and discouraged travel throughout the state.
Heavy ice accumulation, up to half an inch, caused trees to fall on buildings and power lines, with southern Arkansas seeing the most damage. By Feb. 2, the third day of the storm, 82,000 Arkansans had experienced power outages, utilities across the state told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. That number had dropped below 50,000 by Feb. 3. Jefferson County saw the most outages with 10,075, according to Entergy Arkansas.
Entergy’s damage assessment yielded 144 broken poles, 661 spans of downed wire and 15 damaged transformers, according to the Democrat-Gazette.
Most state government offices were closed that week, though the state Legislature continued to meet and conduct business in person. The Arkansas Department of Transportation salted roads and worked to clean up tree branches and other debris in the most affected areas.
In addition to a disaster declaration for 13 counties, Sanders’ office also asked Biden’s office for statewide Hazard Mitigation aid.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency issues Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grants to help states and regions create infrastructure to reduce the impact of future disasters.
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