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Sanders asks for 100% federal cost share for cleanup expenses in storm-hit counties

by Josh Snyder | April 5, 2023 at 5:32 a.m.
Crews begin work on downed power lines leading to a fire station, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, in Waggaman, La., as residents try to recover from the effects of Hurricane Ida.Power out, high voltage lines on the ground, maybe weeks until electricity is restored in some places _ it's a distressingly familiar situation for Entergy Corp., Louisiana's largest electrical utility. Entergy is hardly alone. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders asked the federal government on Tuesday to cover all state and local recovery expenses for the first 30 days after Friday's storms.

Sanders gave the request as Arkansans brace for a new round of storms forecasters expected late Tuesday and into this morning. Tornadoes, damaging winds and golf-ball-sized hail are possible, according to the National Weather Service in North Little Rock.

The 100% federal cost share request for state and local resources was announced in a news release on Tuesday afternoon. It applies to "cleanup and emergency measures in Pulaski, Lonoke and Cross counties," the release states.

"I've been across our state since Friday, surveying damage, meeting with survivors, and discussing recovery efforts with local leaders, emergency personnel, and volunteers," Sanders said in the release. "It's clear that the cost to clean up the damage those storms created will be substantial."

According to the governor, the federal government is currently covering 75% of all costs, but she added that the "arrangement must go further to help Arkansans in need."

Earlier, Sanders announced that a mobile recovery unit set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been established in Wynne.

The unit, which will allow people to meet with FEMA representatives for help in such areas as insurance, identification and Small Business Association loans, will be located at the old Sears building, 702 U.S. 64, according to Sanders.

The Wynne unit follows the establishment of two others, one in Little Rock and another in North Little Rock.

Sanders submitted a formal request for a presidential disaster declaration on Saturday for individual and public assistance in addition to statewide hazard mitigation efforts.

Biden approved the request, which opens opportunities for individuals to pursue housing grants and loans for uninsured property losses

The governor also urged people who need assistance, or who wish to volunteer or donate items, to visit


Tuesday, National Weather Service forecasters said the storms are expected to develop in the state's northwest and, overnight, merge into a line and continue eastward.

The most intense weather is predicted to come "during the middle of the night," according to Sanders.

"We beg you to pay attention to your local authorities," she said. The governor also urged Arkansans to have a plan in place with their families, pay attention to any weather alerts and take shelter as needed.

Sanders said the state has been readying for the next round of severe storms, but that "the biggest thing we can do right now is warn people."

She hoped efforts to clean up debris left over from Friday's storms would limit its impact as the weather sweeps through.

The weather service said Tuesday afternoon that little had changed since earlier forecasts, except that the overall progression of the storm was predicted to be slower. In addition to the severe weather threat, heavy rain is possible in places, though widespread heavy rain isn't expected.

According to the agency's Tulsa office, a cold front associated with the storm is expected to move through Northwest Arkansas between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.

Robert McGowen, Benton County's public safety administrator, said his department is monitoring the approaching weather front and receiving regular briefings from the weather service. McGowen said the county's emergency services are prepared to deploy, if needed.

"We're prepared and just waiting," McGowen said. "With this kind of severe weather, you never know when it might hit or where it might hit so all we can do is try to be ready for it."

Kendall Beam, Sebastian County's emergency management director, said his office is also trying to prepare the public for the storm.

"We're putting out the information, trying to get everybody as safe as they can be, then we just have to wait," Beam said. "The timing is a problem. They're worried about everybody being asleep. Right now, with tornadoes in the forecast, that's the big thing."

In Central Arkansas, the weather service plans to respond to this storm the way that it would others, according to meteorologist Joe Goudsward.

"We will have adequate staffing in place," he said.


Entergy spokeswoman Brandi Hinkle said Arkansans may see additional outages as a result of the storms.

However, the utility has crews, materials and other resources in place should that happen, according to Hinkle.

Entergy is concerned that remaining debris left by Friday's storms could affect repair work that crews have already done.

"It's been a long week," for the utility's linemen, she said. Those crews generally work 16-hour days before taking 8-hour breaks, she said.

Crews also work overnight, though much of that is done by computer to assess where crews need to be the next morning, according to Hinkle.

"It's an all-hands restoration process."

Roughly 7,100 customers were without power at 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to the utility's outage map. Of those, about 5,000 were in Pulaski County and 800 were in Cross County, two of the areas hardest hit by the storms.

Hinkle said workers had to de-energize an area in west Little Rock, and additional outages occurred in Jacksonville as a result of a downed tree. The utility hoped to restore power Tuesday evening.

The Arkansas Division of Emergency Management is also monitoring the weather closely, according to spokeswoman LaTresha Woodruff. The agency activated its State Emergency Operations Center in response to Friday's storms, and has continued to extend its operations.

FEMA had staff at the center on Tuesday, according to an emailed statement from the federal agency.

Woodruff said she didn't yet have an estimate for the cost of the storm damage, or how long the cleanup and recovery effort would take.

"Looking at all this cleanup I cannot even venture to guess when it's going to end," she said.


The indoor mall that houses a Little Rock city director's restaurant was damaged by the tornado that struck the metro area Friday and the timing for the restaurant's reopening remains unclear, attendees at a Rotary Club luncheon were told on Tuesday.

Trio's Restaurant, located at Pavilion in the Park, 8201 Cantrell Road, is co-owned by City Director Capi Peck, who serves as the Ward 4 representative on the Little Rock Board of Directors, and her partner Brent Peterson.

The area of Little Rock off Cantrell Road where the restaurant is located sustained heavy damage from the twister.

Twenty-five or 30 people who were at Trio's Restaurant when the tornado hit took shelter in the walk-in coolers, Peck recalled Tuesday. They later exited and saw devastation, she said.

The food at the restaurant was spirited from the freezers and coolers to various food banks, according to Peck.

Peck, 70, said she was told the next day that they could not access the building because it was compromised. Unable to predict how long they would be out of the business, Peck said she was "afraid it's gonna be for quite some time."

She praised city leaders from Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. on down for their response to the disaster.

Her ward, Ward 4, took the brunt of the tornado and the impact on neighborhoods was devastating, Peck suggested.

Other speakers at the Rotary Club event, which was held at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, included Scott, at-large Little Rock City Director Antwan Phillips, THV-11 meteorologist Skot Covert and local leaders from three charitable organizations.

Information for this story was contributed by Remington Miller, Joseph Flaherty and Alex Thomas of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and Tom Sissom of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

 Gallery: LR Tornado Cleanup


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