Storm wreaks havoc across Clay County

Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Thursday afternoon's storm damaged several buildings in downtown Piggott. Jones Furniture had several windows blown out by the strong winds. Elsewhere on the square, the awning was ripped off Silas Real Estate, the Downtown Inn's sign was torn down, bricks were knocked loose at the back of the Piggott Times building and numerous roofs, windows and awnings were damaged around town. (Times photos/Jennifer Vernon)

As the dark clouds pressed down on Clay County, the strong straight-line winds came suddenly into town. They did not come in quietly, in fact many area residents have remarked on how loud the storm was. This reporter happened to be on the square in the office finishing up some items for a meeting that evening when it unleashed its fury.

The winds ripped through town, removing many a shingle from roofs on homes and area businesses alike. In fact, they were so strong that a number of bricks were knocked loose from the rear of the Times building and laid in the alley along with a utility line that was lowered by the storm. The top of the awning on the Silas Real Estate building was violently ripped loose by the wind and tossed into the street, the Treasure Chest's sign was left dangling from the awning over the store, and windows were blown out of Jones Furniture on West Main Street. The former Blue Gypsy building on Court Street also had a window blown out when the quiet returned. Portions of the underside of the awning at City Hall were torn down by the storm, while the awning over Rick Rodery's office and Gloria's looked as though a giant had taken it and bent it into a wave, meanwhile plucking bits and pieces of the tin off the structure.

Numerous area residents also reported damage. At Ray Duty's home his Bradford Pear tree was ripped by the winds, several homes needed roof repairs after the storm and at Rebecca Foulk's residence on Highway 62 a barn behind the home was stripped of its tin covering and left in splinters and a nearby silo was crushed like a tin can after being lifted off its foundation. Jack Parrish stopped by the Times office to report the damage to his airplane at the Campbell airport. Parrish said it was a $50,000 loss because only a limited number of the planes were made.

The damage was spread far and wide. Towards St. Francis several telephone poles were laid down along the roadside by the winds. Clean-up from the storms kicked into high gear on Friday morning when the weather cleared as city employees, area residents and business owners started to assess the damage and see what repairs needed to be made. Crews from the phone company worked to quickly set the poles right toward St. Francis while business owners swept up glass, boarded over broken windows, and looked over other damage to their buildings.

Jeff Puckett, Clay County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator, said that disaster assistance is available for homeowners or renters affected by the severe storms on March 9. Temporary housing assistance is available through the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management for eligible homeowners and renters whose primary residence was destroyed or made uninhabitable. Persons may apply for the housing assistance by calling toll-free 877-828-3362.

Individual or family grant program assistance is also available for only eligible uninsured losses including repairs to primary residences and modes of transportation, replacement of essential personal property items and assistance with dental, medical and funeral expenses. To apply for assistance through an individual or family grant, persons may contact the Clay County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) at 187 North 2nd Street in Piggott by calling 870-598-2282. The DHHS is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Applications will be accepted between Monday, March 13, and Friday, March 24. Puckett said those who have need for assistance should contact DHHS as soon as possible. He added that he believes low interest loans will be made available to business owners to help with repairs to their buildings.

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