Damage assessment teams headed to north Arkansas as warm winds from the Plains melted away the ice that encapsulated trees and cut power to thousands in late January.
“Every day is a blessing now,” said Travis Boyd, emergency management director for hard-hit Clay County in the northeast corner of the state. “Every day the sun shines is a blessing.”
Federal, state and local officials will examine damage to bridges, roads, water treatment plants and other facilities essential to the public, said Win Henderson, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Those inspections likely will last till the middle or end of the week, he said.
Gov. Mike Beebe will review the reports and determine what kind of aid to request from the federal government.
“We won’t be able to make a decision on what to submit until all of them are looked at,” Henderson said.
Eight truckloads of food and another eight loads of water headed to the region Jan. 31 from Dallas, Henderson said. Those supplies, as well as cots, blankets and generators, continue to be handed out by state authorities to those in need, he said.
President Barack Obama has declared federal emergencies in Arkansas and Kentucky, making them eligible for government funds.
Electrical crews, aided by a blast of nearly springtime temperatures, continued to repair lines damaged by falling tree branches. Entergy Arkansas, the state’s largest power provider, said it expected to have most customer’s service restored by Feb. 4. As of 4 p.m. Jan. 31, Entergy had 68,200 outages, down from a peak of 111,000.
Overall, more than 167,000 homes and businesses were without power Saturday afternoon. In Clay County, which lost 100 percent of its power at one point, outages remained in the “low- to mid-90s” percentage-wise, Boyd said.
Warm weather Saturday helped melt away much of the ice hanging from roofs and trees throughout the county, Boyd said. Emergency shelters remained open, providing those without power a place to sleep and get three meals a day.
Still, the scope of the disaster shocked the 64-year-old.
“I’ve never seen anything to equal this – widespread devastation throughout the entire county,” Boyd said.
Nine people died in storm-related incidents after the storm moved in Jan. 26.
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