The recent ice storm has caused many people to suffer. Rather than sitting around and doing nothing about it, people are trying to clean up their yards and make repairs on their homes as soon as they can in order to get back to a normal lifestyle.
ADEM and FEMA
According to the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) and FEMA, those who are doing repairs on their property need to document any repairs and keep receipts.
"As local authorities complete their response efforts and areas become accessible, we are sending teams throughout the impacted areas to assess damages to the infrastructure," ADEM Disaster Management Division Chief Rich Griffin said. "Arkansans are resilient even during the worst of times. For those who may already be planning repairs to their homes and property, we encourage them to do so and ask that they document damages and keep receipts."
According to FEMA's Web site, www.fema.gov, "The recent federal emergency declaration is for direct federal assistance to the state as they respond to the storm. Any possible federal assistance to individuals and families would be based on damage assessments that may be conducted by the state and FEMA in the coming days."
"Assessment teams are the first step toward determining the extent of damages. The assessments help state leadership decide whether or not to request a presidential declaration," Mike Moore, FEMA federal coordination officer, said. "In the meantime, affected property owners should contact their insurance companies and proceed with repairs whenever possible."
FEMA recommends those who are doing repairs to:
* Contact homeowner and vehicle insurance companies to report any damage to their property.
* Document the damage to the home by taking photos or using video, and keeping a list of items that have been damaged or destroyed.
* After documenting the damage, begin cleaning up and making repairs immediately.
* Dispose of damaged property that presents a health hazard or that may hamper clean-up operations.
* Be sure to document fully all discarded items so that when the homeowner insurance adjuster examines the losses and the records, these articles are included.
* Compile a room-by-room inventory of damaged goods and include manufacturers' names, dates and places of purchase and prices, where possible. Try to locate receipts and proofs of purchase, especially for large appliances.
As for individual debris removal, there has been some confusion in Fulton County about a burn ban on for the entire county. According to Fulton County Judge Charles Willett, the burn ban is only within Salem city limits. Willett said, people who live in Salem who want to burn debris can ask permission to burn by calling the judge's office or the Salem Fire Department.
"We're trying to regulate it where we don't have 100 people burning at one time and pollute our air," Willett said.
The Fulton County Quorum Court held a special meeting Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. to discuss damages and cleaning up the county roads after the ice storm.
Willett said, Fulton County has met the criteria to be declared a disaster area. "When that is declared, we have six months to get cleanup done," Willett said.
One debris removal service, Willett said, estimated about $20 million to clean up the county. "We all know we don't have $3 million to pay the difference in," Willett said.
"We can't pay no $3 million or $4 million because that would break us," Willett said.
"Our first week, just getting the roads open, was close to $100,000," Willett said.
According to Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Darrel Zimmer, county crews had about 800 hours of overtime during the week of the ice storm. "The guys worked hard," Willett said.
"Anybody who had a back hoe or any kind of piece of equipment was helping us for the first week to 10 days," Willett said.
To make things easier to receive reimbursement from FEMA, Willett said the county is going to chip all the wood debris and find some way to recycle it. He said getting reimbursement is more complicated if the county was to burn the debris.
"What we're looking at now is an excavator with a hydraulic saw arm on it to get up there (in the trees)," Willett said. "We're going to hire anyone who can haul at least 30 cubic yards at a time."
"We are trying to get a staging area in Mammoth Spring," Willett said. "We have a staging area in Heart we're going to look at tomorrow. We've got one between here and Viola that's already approved and we're going to look at one in Camp."
Willett said anyone who has any heavy duty equipment or haulers can most likely get a job with the county at cleaning up ice storm debris.
The court unanimously agreed to lease or purchase any amount of equipment needed to clean up the roads.
"It'll be a long, drawn out affair and people will just have to be patient," Willett said. "The flood (last year) was a lot easier than this, taking care of debris."
Willett reported many roads were clear enough Feb. 4 for students to go back to the county's public schools again. He said the schools reported a 91 percent attendance that day.
"All the buses made it fine," Willett said. "We had a good day getting school back together."
According to Zimmer, most schools have opened their shower facilities in their gyms for anyone who needs them including faculty, staff and students.
What FEMA is doing
FEMA was activated Jan. 27 when an emergency declaration for Arkansas was made for 48 out of 75 counties due to the ice storm. This declaration allows the federal government to reimburse 75 percent of repairs in cities and counties in the affected areas.
The Regional Response Coordination Center was activated and was working with public works and engineering across the state.
FEMA also deployed two Mobile Disaster Recovery Centers and the Region VI Incident Management Assistance Team to the Arkansas State Emergency Operations Center.
Four Public Assistance Preliminary Damage Assessment Teams were sent to assess damages.
FEMA also completed its mission of generator support through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The generators went to the National Logistics Staging Area in Jonesboro to complement those in Fayetteville.
FEMA was also able to send out water and food to staging areas in places where the storm hit. Unfortunately, according to the Arkansas Department of Health and FEMA, some of the meal kits might contain peanut butter packets that may be contaminated with Salmonella Typhimurium.
According to FEMA, "As part of the disaster relief effort in Kentucky and Arkansas, commercial meal kits manufactured by Red Cloud Food Services Inc., under the Standing Rock label, have been provided to disaster survivors in impacted communities, and these kits may contain peanut butter which is part of the precautionary national recall underway in accordance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)."
The peanut butter packets in the meal kits were distributed by Boca Grande Foods.
According to FEMA's Web site, "One trailer of water and one trailer of meals were delivered to ADEM at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock. In addition, one trailer of water and one trailer of meals were delivered to the logistics staging area in Jonesboro. Two trailers of water and two trailers of meals were delivered to the logistics staging area in Fayetteville."
"People who have received commercial meal kits are asked to inspect the kits in their possession and immediately dispose of any peanut butter packets," FEMA advises.
According to Judge Willett, the courthouse still has water and Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) for people who need them.
"If there's anybody in your area who you know needs water (tell us)," Zimmer said. "A lot of the elderly people are not calling us. They don't want to bother anyone but they're out of water, too. So, if you know somebody that we need to go check on, make sure you call and let us know."
"One night, I know, we were out until 2 to 3 in the morning packing food in (to the county)," Willett said. "That's one thing about it. You can't say enough about Fulton County's volunteers or first responders or fire departments. Within 48 hours, I think everybody had gained access or contact to people in our area to check on them. It's quite a deal. We appreciate all the help."
Along with the schools, the Salem First Baptist Church has kept its doors open for those who need showers, Zimmer said.
There are shelters at the Salem First Baptist Church, Viola Assembly of God, Ash Flat Church of Christ and St. Mary of the Mount Catholic Church in Horseshoe Bend for those needing assistance.
The American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and many local churches can also help those who are in immediate need. Other organizations are also helping storm victims, according to FEMA. Those who want to be directed to an organization that is assisting victims of the winter storm can call Arkansas 211 and they will contact an orgaization based on victims' needs.