May 11, 2011 Edition

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County still waiting on
declaration as waters recede

Sherri Sparks (seated, from left) of the Lawrence County Office of Emergency Management discusses the status of flooded areas with Alicia Mayor Melba Verke; (back) Portia City Clerk Wanda Dunlap, Black Rock Mayor Bonnie Ragsdale, Minturn resident Gary Light and Minturn Mayor Ronnie Brown.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt
Gretchen Hunt

Several Lawrence County officials met with Nathan Davis of U.S. Sen. John Boozman's Jonesboro office on Monday regarding flooding in Lawrence County and progress toward having the county declared a federal disaster area.

County Judge Dale Freeman and State Rep. James Ratliff, as well as representatives of Black Rock, Portia, Alicia and Minturn, met with Davis and Sherri Sparks of the Lawrence County Office of Emergency Management.

Sparks shared that local OEM personnel would be making visits to each home that was affected by the flooding.

"We have to see the house," Sparks said "and document which homes were under water."

Black Rock Mayor Bonnie Ragsdale, Alicia Mayor Melba Verke, Minturn Mayor Ronnie Brown and Portia City Clerk Wanda Dunlap gave updates on flooding in each of their communities.

Gary Light, a resident of Minturn, addressed flooding in the Clover Bend community, as well.

"There are homes in Clover Bend that still have six feet of water in them," he said.

Davis offered some advice on what homeowners with damage need to do.

Each person affected should contact the county judge's office at 886-1110, as well as the Arkansas Department of Emergency

Management at 1-888-683-2336. Davis stressed that it is important for individual residents to report their damage to the ADEM.

He said once the county is declared a disaster area, the county will be notified by FEMA. Sparks reported that FEMA representatives are expected to visit the county on Friday.

"Residents can't get help until the county is declared," Davis said. "Right now they just need to call and report."

Freeman said the county has completed all necessary paperwork. He also shared with the other officials present that representatives from both Boozman's office and Rep. Rick Crawford's office are in communication with him on a daily basis.

"At least we know that y'all know that we have a problem," Ragsdale said.

In the meantime, homeowners who are able to get back into their home are encouraged to carefully document all damage before beginning any work. Video or photo documentation is highly recommended, and anything taken from the home, including furniture, carpeting, etc., should not be disposed of until the home is assessed by FEMA.

Davis said from what he's been told FEMA will try to address those who do not have insurance first.

"I wish I could give you some exact answers and promise you things, but I can promise you that we are going to fight hard for you," he said.

A native of Smithville, Davis said he and others are working to ensure that Lawrence County at least receives the same assistance as other counties affected by the flooding.

In addition to damage to homes, there will be road damage and crop losses to be assessed. How the affect on agriculture will be addressed remains to be seen.

Davis said a couple of meetings have been scheduled to begin to determine what will be done about agricultural losses, but Ratliff said his understanding was that it could be up to five months before a decision is reached.

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