Three weeks after being battered by baseball sized hail, the Federal Emergency Management Agency came to Fulton County to take claims from residents.
FEMA sent a Mobile Disaster Recovery Center to Salem April 26 to serve homeowners, renters and business owners affected by the severe storms that struck Fulton County April 1.
Fulton County Emergency Coordinator Albert Roork said. the FEMA agents were kept busy from the time they arrived at approximately 8 a.m. until after 5 p.m. He said the agents commented that they probably should have stayed two days.
Roork said FEMA brought a motor home, which housed their equipment, and an armed guard. FEMA set up in the fire department's training room, he said.
Eighteen homeowners in Fulton called FEMA to report damage to their homes before the agency sent its agents to Salem, according to Brad Crane, public information officer for FEMA.
The center had staff made up of agents from FEMA, Arkansas Department of Emergency Management and the Small Business Administration.
Roork said FEMA doesn't usually cover people with insurance, but ADEM will help.
FEMA spokesman Win Henderson said, "You will be able to get reimbursement for the deductible on a primary residence," adding that rental and secondary homes will not be helped by the agency.
FEMA sent a damage assessment team to visit Fulton County in April to see the damage in the county firsthand immediately after the storm. The agency also performs flyovers of areas that are in consideration of disaster declarations.
Henderson said to be declared a federal disaster the area would have to be beyond the state's capacity to handle.
"It's based on people in the county and the per capita income and percentage insured," Henderson said. He said counties where most people are insured are not usually declared disasters.
Roork said that as long as he has worked for the county, he does not remember it ever being declared a federal disaster area.
"FEMA is here for the uninsured and the underinsured," Crane said. An example of underinsured would be an older couple who haven't kept up with increases in cost and replacement value, he said.
"What we have done so far is give $615,000 to the seven counties," Henderson said. He said $415,000 of it went to temporary housing and rentals while $191,000 went to needs and assistance which covers basic necessities such as clothing, appliances, healthcare and death benefits.
Roork said several residences in the Fulton County part of Cherokee Village were damaged as well. He said 911 coordinator David Keck was brought in to make sure everyone was from Fulton County.
Crane said 572 homeowners and businesses contacted FEMA, including 18 from Fulton County and three from Sharp County.
Crane said the low number of calls from Sharp County is probably because the homes were insured. "Usually with homeowner's insurance the insurance kicks in," Crane said. Most of the damage in Sharp County occurred in Cherokee Village.
"The need is not yet there for a presidential declaration," Crane said.
Southeastern Fulton County received the worst damage, with several buildings receiving damage to vinyl siding. Stile's Grocery, five miles east of Salem, received a massive amount of damage, including damage to air conditioning units, a scroll sign, roof and broken windows.
Other counties that were declared disasters in Arkansas are Randolph, Lawrence, Green, White, Cross and Conway counties. To register for federal and state disaster assistance for the April 1-3 storms one can call FEMA at 800-621-3362. An application is available online at www.fema.gov.
Gov. Mike Huckabee requested the area be declared a disaster April 6. President George Bush declared Fulton County a disaster April 12. Marmaduke, Ark., was especially hit hard, with most of the town being either destroyed or damaged by tornadoes.