Arkansas feels slight relief as ice storms fade

As a series of ice storms which hit the southern plains begin to move off, residents who were without power have started to feel some relief.

Jan. 2, 2001—As a series of ice storms which hit the southern plains begin to move off, residents who were without power have started to feel some relief.

Thirty more Arkansas counties were added to a federal disaster declaration, making up a total of 52 counties in the storm-chilled state. President Clinton had made the original Major Disaster Declaration on Dec. 28, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

This means individuals and businesses, as well as local governments in these counties, are now eligible to apply for federal and state disaster-recovery assistance.

A Jan. 1 report from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (www.adem.state.ar.us) said that water and/or sewer systems in 22 counties were still affected. Experts are still working to put a dollar amount on the damages.

Cold air has kept ice frozen on trees, power lines and streets as utility crews worked to restore power to thousands of Arkansas residents. Two major storms in the last two weeks have knocked down power lines and stopped water service to many communities in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana. At one point, power was knocked out to half a million customers in the region.

The latest storm, which came through Oklahoma and Arkansas over the New Year's weekend, did not cause many additional problems but it did slow workers' attempts to restore power.

A little over 40,000 homes and businesses remained without power today, according to a report from ABCNEWS.com.

The disaster-recovery assistance, to be coordinated by FEMA, can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, minor home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.

Additionally, federal funds will be available to the state and affected local governments to pay 75 percent of the eligible cost for debris removal, emergency services and debris removal. For more information, visit FEMA's web site at http://www.fema.gov/.

Southwestern Arkansas has been hit the hardest by the winter storms that came to the area the week before Christmas. According to reports from the Associated Press, 14 deaths have been attributed to the ice storm in the region.

In Hot Springs, Ark., power was out for all of its 33,000 residents, including the local water treatment plant. Power has not been completely restored to the town, but water is flowing to the taps and the boil water order has been lifted, the City of Hot Springs said.

About half the outages to the region were in Arkansas. In Oklahoma, about 120,000 lost their power. In Texas about 106,000 did not have power, and an additional 50,000 lost have power in Louisiana.

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