Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison said that city and county officials have concluded their preliminary damage assessments following the May 30-31 storms for required deadlines.
Ellison said the federal government dispatched FEMA teams throughout Arkansas to compile damage assessments. State-wide, he said, their reports were between $6 million to $7 million.
Ellison said, “On June 5th, I took a 3-person FEMA team, and a representative from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management on a tour of the most severely damaged roads and bridges. The FEMA team returned on June 10th to assess the tornado damage.”
Ellison said the teams concluded the damage met the thresholds required for a federal declaration. He said he has been told their reports are on the President’s desk for his consideration. “I am fully expecting a federal declaration but remain very cautious until we get the official word,” said Ellison.
Ellison made a disaster declaration only hours following the storm that was quickly followed by a State Disaster Declaration by Governor Mike Beebe.
Early estimations by local officials immediately following the storm were for the county damage $526,000, for the City of Mena $219,600, and the electric co-op $202,000.
The FEMA team’s assessments following their on-site visit for the county were $767,281, for the City of Mena, $103,100, and for the electric co-op it was $109,000.
Ellison said he and Reeves have submitted all of the necessary documentation and paperwork required for Individual Assistance but they have yet to receive official notification if the county will qualify and meet the required thresholds in damage.
In the meantime, Ellison said the Polk County Road Department is working hard to restore the roads and bridges. Having learned a lot about federal-aid during flooding in 2011, Ellison said, “I believe it is in Polk County’s best interest that we do not work on some of the most serious damage until we find out about federal action. One reason for this is because we want FEMA to see the damage with their eyes, so there will be no doubt about the severity of damage. Another reason is without federal help, decisions on how to repair, will certainly be different.”
Ellison said the county currently has five bridges that are impassable. A 32-foot bridge on Polk 62 near Board Camp, a 60-foot bridge on Polk 41 near New Potter, an approximate 34-foot bridge on Polk 45 near Mena, a 30-foot bridge on Polk 301 near the Highland Community, and a 40- foot bridge on Polk 664 east of Board Camp. “Another bridge located on Polk 61 near Big Fork has been removed and a temporary low water crossing has been constructed, however, heavy rain would surely take it out of service. There are too many damaged county road culvert placements and damaged county roads to mention. At this time, to the best of my knowledge, all Polk County citizens have access to their properties by regular or alternate routes. If not, I urge you to please contact the County Judge’s office if you are aware of a county road that is impassable.”
Ellison is anxious to begin rebuilding and repairing. “Let me assure you that we will have the road and bridge system restored soon…with or without federal help. Polk County has recovered from larger disasters in the past because our citizens are self reliant, resourceful, and patient. Please remember how blessed we are to live in Polk County, Arkansas.”