Ark. School Condemned After Storm; More Disaster Areas Declared

April 15, 2009

Up to 465 students in Mena, Ark., will have to attend classes elsewhere after a tornado on April 9 damaged the Mena Middle School so severely that the building will have to be condemned.

Officials say that as many as 300 seventh and eighth graders will attend classes at an old middle school in Hatfield, about 12 miles from Mena. About 165 sixth graders will go to classes at Dallas Avenue Baptist Church in Mena. Officials say classes are expected to resume this week.

The EF3 tornado ripped through several Arkansas counties. In Mena, three people were killed and 30 injured.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has declared two more counties disaster areas in the aftermath of the storms, and state officials have extended the tax deadline for those in the declared disaster areas.

Beebe added Ashley and Miller counties as declared disaster areas. The governor had previously declared Howard, Polk and Sevier counties disaster areas.

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management is continuing its preliminary assessments of storm damage, and Beebe’s office said he expects to request federal aid for individual storm victims in the coming days.

Emergency management officials in Polk County say that 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by a tornado that ripped through the county.

The Department of Finance and Administration has announced that the deadline for filing income tax returns and paying any tax due is extended until Aug. 15 for those who live in or have a business in the five counties declared disasters.

The department also said it will waive the failure to file, failure to pay and interest charges for businesses unable to make withholding deposits, or for individuals and businesses unable to make estimated tax payments between April 9 and May 27 because of the storms.

To claim the special extension, write “Disaster Storms” on the front of the mailing envelope and on the top left corner of the tax return.

Meanwhile, the town of Dierks in Howard County lost its water source after a tornado knocked out the community’s water treatment plant. The National Weather Service says the twister that hit Dierks had winds of up to 140 miles per hour and that it stayed on the ground for 30 miles.

Fire hoses have been attached to the Howard County Rural Water lines to bring water to the system, and the National Guard has also brought 5,000 gallons of water to the city.

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and the Texarkana Gazette,

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