AR Briefly

Southeast Arkansas county will receive state relief funds after severe storm damage in June

By: - August 1, 2023 5:24 pm

An Entergy crew based in Little Rock. (Courtesy of Entergy Arkansas)

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a Southeast Arkansas county a disaster area on Tuesday and promised relief funds to the area in light of severe storms in June.

Arkansas has seen a wide range of severe storm damage this year, including in Ashley County on June 18, when 30 to 40 mph winds downed power lines and resulted in 3,859 residents losing electricity, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. Several neighboring counties also saw high winds and power outages.

In a Tuesday press release, Sanders declared Ashley County a disaster area and authorized the state Division of Emergency Management to provide financial relief to the county via the Governor’s Response and Recovery Fund.

The same weekend in June, an EF-2 tornado with up to 120 mph winds damaged homes and knocked down trees and power lines in Logan County. Sanders declared a state of emergency in the region shortly afterward.

The following weekend, more severe weather caused damage in Arkansas, Faulkner, Lonoke, Poinsett, Pope, and Pulaski counties. On July 14, Sanders declared the six counties as disaster areas and suspended state agency rules in order to allow multiple agencies “to render maximum assistance to the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management” in its efforts to provide disaster relief.

Earlier this year, Sanders had requested a federal disaster declaration for 13 counties, mostly in southern Arkansas, that experienced the worst of a four-day winter storm in late January and early February. Heavy ice accumulation, up to half an inch, caused trees to fall on buildings and power lines, and thousands of Arkansans experienced power outages.

President Joe Biden granted Sanders’ request in March, making federal funding available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency work and the repair or replacement of damaged facilities.

Additionally, severe storms and tornadoes hit Pulaski, Lonoke and Cross counties March 31, destroying thousands of Arkansans’ homes and causing four deaths in Wynne and one in North Little Rock.

Biden again issued a disaster declaration for Arkansas as a result of the tornadoes. Federal aid covered initially 75% of cleanup costs, but Sanders requested 100% coverage in April, and Biden granted the request.

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Tess Vrbin
Tess Vrbin

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri.