Gov. Asa Hutchinson has declared Faulkner County and 13 other counties disaster areas following the severe storms and flooding that hit the state in late February.
"I have issued a disaster declaration for several counties across Arkansas that were impacted by last month's severe weather causing significant damage to both private property and public facilities," Hutchinson said in a statement Friday. "In order to provide assistance as quickly as possible to these affected areas, I have directed my agencies to render maximum assistance to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management for those impacted counties."
Counties declared disaster areas include:Arkansas. Bradley. Chicot. Clark. Clay. Cleveland. Desha. Faulkner. Lee. Lonoke. Mississippi. Ouachita. Randolph. White.
Severe storms and heavy rains that caused major flooding — especially along Lake Conway — in Faulkner County and other parts of the state began Feb. 20 and continued for about a week and a half before waters began to subside.
Faulkner County Office of Emergency Management Director Sheila Bellott said roughly 75 county residences suffered flood damage.
While most damage reports the Faulkner County OEM has received involve outbuildings, boat docks and storage buildings, Bellott said about 13 homeowners have reported waters rising into their residences.
County Judge Jim Baker said he requested the state declare Faulkner County a disaster area so that those affected by the severe flooding locally could receive assistance as they begin the repair process.
Hutchinson, in his proclamation issued Friday, said he "hereby invoke[s] emergency executive powers vested in me by Ark. Code Ann. §§ 12-75-101, et seq., as amended, and suspend the previsions of regulating statues prescribing procedures for conduct of the State Office of Purchasing, the Arkansas Building Authority, the State Office of Personnel Management, and all other state departments and agencies to render maximum assistance to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management relative to any potential impediment to the rapid and orderly rendering of assistance to political subdivisions."
As far as local assistance, Bellott said that as of right now, "we're waiting for the state to come in and assess the damage" to determine what forms of assistance it will provide.
Once Faulkner County OEM officials are notified of what assistance will be offered, Bellott said she and other officials will begin calling all who have reported damages to her office.
Anyone with questions about the process can call OEM officials at 501-450-4935. Bellott said she will also update the website, oem911.net, once she knows what type of assistance the state will offer.