WASHINGTON — Arkansas’ entire congressional delegation Friday backed Gov. Mike Beebe’s request for a federal disaster declaration for 15 counties in the state hit hard by recent winter storms.
Beebe on Monday asked President Obama to issue a major disaster declaration for Crawford, Franklin, Independence, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Marion, Montgomery, Newton, Polk, Scott, Searcy, Sebastian, Sharp and Van Buren counties.
The wintry mix of freezing rain and snow moved through the state on Dec. 5 and 6, leaving about 62,000 homes without power and many roads and highways impassable. One death was attributed to the storm.
U.S. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., along with GOP Reps. Tom Cotton, Rick Crawford, Tim Griffin and Steve Womack, also signed a letter Friday to Obama and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in support of the governor’s request for a disaster declaration.
The legislators noted that Beebe’s request is the fourth in 2013, which they described as a "particularly difficult year" for Arkansans affected by natural disasters.
"The winter storms … left the affected communities overwhelmed with tremendous amounts of storm debris. Preliminary assessments indicate that the most severe impact was to roadways and public facilities," the letter said. "The compounded nature of the disasters across the state makes recovery efforts particularly difficult. Arkansas is working tirelessly to mitigate loss and recover from the winter storm, but further assistance is needed."
The declaration would make Arkansas eligible to receive federal aid to help the state, cities and counties recover from infrastructure damage. State and federal damage assessments totaled more than $8.6 million.