"For the fourth time since February 2008, Sharp County has been declared a national disaster area for public assistance," Sharp County Judge Larry Brown said. "But, improvements can always be made." Which is why the week of Feb. 23 was declared Arkansas' Severe Weather Awareness Week.
In a news release from Governor Mike Beebe's office, Beebe stated, emergency preparedness depends on the leadership and dedicated efforts of elected officials, public servants and volunteers. But, experience has demonstrated that a well-informed and prepared public can take protective measures to reduce the loss of life and damage to property.
"We started 2008 with high winds, followed by a tornado, floods, then high winds again," Brown said. "2009 started with the worst ice storm in recent memory. The ice storm affected nearly everyone in the county."
According to Beebe's statement, last year was the second most active tornado year in Arkansas history. The state accounted for one-sixth of the tornado deaths in the United States.
In his statement Beebe said, "I, Mike Beebe, acting under the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Arkansas, do hereby proclaim Feb. 23 through 27, 2009, as Severe Weather Awareness Week 2009 across the state of Arkansas. I call upon all those who are in leadership positions -- in business, government, or the public organizations -- to join in furthering the development of preparedness plans to protect the lives and property of Arkansas during severe weather conditions."
Judge Brown boasted that the people of Sharp County have exhibited a lot of character and patience in dealing with these misfortunes. "But, throughout it all, they have risen to the occasion and helped each other," Brown said. "I appreciate Gene Moore, OEM coordinator, Dan Melbourne, his deputy and road superintendent, as well as many others for the long hours they have put in trying to help the residents of Sharp County."
Brown said county officials met with FEMA Feb. 25, in a kick-off meeting concerning the ice storm damage. "Hopefully, in the next week FEMA will assign personnel to travel the roads with our personnel and give a dollar estimate to the damage."
He said the county's main concern, up to this point, has been the opening of roads. "As FEMA writes project worksheets, we will start to actually clear debris from the roads," Brown said. "Although we will receive financial help from the state and federal governments, the cost to the county will still be 12.5 percent."
While FEMA will be assisting the county, they denied individual assistance. In a letter to Beebe, it was stated that the impact to the private sector was not of the severity and magnitude to warrant implementation of the individual assistance program.
Brown said county road crews, prisoners (from the county jail) and temporary help will be used as much as possible to help mitigate the county's share of this cost.
"The damage (from the ice storm) was so widespread it is going to take a while to clean up the debris and repair damaged roads," Brown said. "We appreciate the patience and support of the people of Sharp County."