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Governor Declares More than Half the State as Disaster Area


Since the flooding event that began in Arkansas on Sunday, December 27th, 2015, Governor Asa Hutchinson has declared 38 of the 75 counties in the state as disaster areas. ‘Goliath’ as the storm was so appropriately named trekked its way across the country leaving destruction in dozens of states and taking the lives of 52 people, while spawning tornados, torrential floods, and blizzards. Polk County received almost 13 inches in parts of the county in less than 24 hours, causing damage to roads and bridges and spawning a handful of rescues.

The full amount of damage across the state and country is still unknown, because some rivers and waterways affected are just beginning to crest and will not be able to be assessed until the waters recede. A federal disaster declaration has not yet been made and there has been no timeline given on when the decision will be made. However, Gov. Hutchinson will be one of several governors applying for a federal declaration. (See story: Ellison Lays Out Plans for 2016 for further explanation on timelines and funding.)

In addition to Polk County being declared as a disaster area, neighboring Sevier, Scott, and Montgomery counties were included in Gov. Hutchinson’s declaration. To help with response of the storm, the governor enlisted the help of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management to constantly monitor the event and provide leadership; the National Guard, who helped with sand bag operations and high water transportation, including one rescue in Polk County; State Police provided additional patrols in evacuated areas; Department of Correction inmates assisted with sand bag operations; the Forestry Department is actively assisting with debris clean-up; and Arkansas Game and Fish, who assisted with swift water rescues.

Gov. Hutchinson issued this statement about the team response across the state:

“In conjunction with General Berry, Colonel Bryant, and Director Maxwell, I am actively monitoring the situation across the state and am pleased to report that agencies have been working, and continue to work, diligently on all fronts following the weekend’s severe weather. As cleanup efforts are underway, the safety of our citizens continues to be my chief concern. I encourage all Arkansans to use an abundance of caution even now after the storms have passed as floodwaters continue to be an issue throughout much of the state. I particularly want to express appreciation for the work of our first responders and the Department of Correction in their relief efforts.”


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