Crews Assisting with Clean-Up and Debris
BY LEANN DILBECK –
Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison has issued a Disaster Declaration for Polk County following the devastating ice storm that hard hit county infrastructure Thursday night and Friday. Ellison made the verbal declaration on Friday morning to expedite clean-up and clearing efforts and will issue the written declaration this week.
Ellison said his road crews began working at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday night cutting timber from blocked highways and county roads. He said crews worked in South Polk County keeping Hwy 71 cleared and also focused on getting the hard hit Posey Hollow area cleared on Polk County Roads 184 and 74 that lead to the Mena Water Treatment Facility that supplies the county’s water.
Ellison said it was necessary to make the verbal declaration on Friday so his crews could access “private” land such as lanes and drives for the safety, health and welfare of county residents. “We didn’t want anyone to be trapped in or no way for emergency personnel to have access if needed.”
Also a top priority for county road crews was clearing Hwy 375 leading to Eagle Tower that provides the radio signal for law enforcement and emergency personnel. The tower had lost power and it was necessary to convert the tower to generator power and keep supplied with diesel fuel.
Ellison said that local National Guard volunteered their services on Friday and was a tremendous help in making welfare checks. He said the U.S.F.S. and Forestry Commissions also provided two chainsaw crews to assist his department in keeping roadways cleared.
The hardest hit areas, according to Ellison, have been Acorn, Shady, Rocky, Mountain Fork, Posey Hollow, and Mena. “When you get south of Hatton, the ice storm had little impact.”
Even though the worst of the storm was over on Friday, Ellison said timber and limbs have continuously fallen and that “no area can be checked off because we are continuously having to go back and rework.”
He said it is too early to put a dollar figure to the damage and that they are still assessing the damage and will have to wait for the power companies to supply their numbers as well. “As hard hit as we are, I don’t think we’ll meet the threshold for it to go federal but state is a possibility.”
If Governor Mike Beebe also concurs with a state declaration, Ellison said the state would pay 35% to assist with clean-up but said the process is very cumbersome and will also involve the ADEQ overseeing the disposal of debris.
Office of Emergency Management Coordinator James Reeves said private landowners can burn debris on their property without any required permits. Ellison said the only debris the county can legally remove will be that that is left in the ditches and right of ways from his crews or the power companies.
No strangers to assisting Polk County following natural disasters, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Mennonite Disaster are on the ground in Polk County to stay for a week for assisting those that need trees and debris removed. To make your request for assistance, please call the OES office at 479-394-8141.