Flood Damage Reviewed at Meeting

Thursday, January 14, 2016
This location along Big Slough, near Highway 139 southeast of Rector, sustained some of the most severe ditch bank erosion during the recent flooding event.(photo courtesy Clay County OEM)

Clay County Judge Gary Howell hosted a meeting at the eastern district county shed on Wednesday, Jan. 6, to discuss seeking help for damage from the recent flooding. Earlier in the week Howell signed a disaster declaration for Clay County, which will allow individuals and businesses to seek financial support. The declaration came on the heels of the official state declaration, signed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

The meeting included the mayors of Piggott, Rector and Corning, local Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) personnel, Clay County Office of Emergency Management Director Alan Vaughn, representatives of several of the local drainage districts and concerned individuals. Also on hand was Jeff Morris, field representative for Senator Tom Cotton from his Jonesboro office.

"Now that we've had a chance to look things over, there's a lot more damage than we expected to find," Howell told those in attendance. "We've got a lot of damage all over the county. We've got one ditch bank south of Rector that's going to be a huge job to fix."

Clay County Judge Gary Howell (center) discusses the flood damage in the county at last Wednesday's meeting. Among those on hand were, from left: Sherland Hamilton, Rector Mayor Teresa Roofe, Piggott Mayor Jim Poole, Howell and Jeff Morris, with Senator Tom Cotton's office.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

Vaughn indicated there was damage county wide, but noted some of the worst ditch bank erosion occurred along Big Slough, southeast of Rector. "We weren't even aware of the damage for several days, but they've lost a lot of the ditch bank and it's going to be a big job to repair," he explained.

The area of concern is near the Highway 139 bridge over Big Slough.

"Our airport was flooded, and we have a lot of debris left on the runway and apron," Piggott Mayor Jim Poole told those on hand. "In fact, we've got hundreds of pounds of debris that's going to have to be cleaned up."

Poole also indicated there was damage to the concession stand at Independence Park, the city's baseball diamond complex among other locations. "The water got up into the concession stand, we're not sure how much damage it did to the building and contents yet," he added.

"We had flooding out around our airport too, and are still looking for other problem areas," Rector Mayor Teresa Roofe offered. She deferred to Rector city street superintendent Todd Watson, who provided an update.

Corning Mayor Rob Young also noted there were several homes in his city which were flooded, and the debris left was also posing problems.

"FEMA will be visiting the county on Thursday, Jan. 14, to evaluate the damage," Vaughn told the group. "They'll start here in Piggott, and will only continue until they find enough damage to warrant their help--so, if they find a lot of damage locally they won't even visit the other parts of the county."

Vaughn indicated the FEMA personnel would be gathering at the eastern district county shed to begin their inspections.

"The most important thing for everyone to do is document the damage," Vaughn offered. "Take photos and gather all the information you can in advance of the inspections." He also reminded those involved that if funding is approved, good bookkeeping is a necessity.

"If you do get approved for funding be sure to keep good records--when you receive federal funds you're always subject to being audited," he explained.

Howell noted if FEMA determines the county is eligible for assistance then each entity will be responsible for applying for the help. "I have to declare the entire county as a disaster area, but each city or town will be dealing with FEMA on their own, it doesn't go through the county," he added.

Morris told those on hand that at the current time there wasn't much Cotton's office could do to help, other than offer advice and support. "Once you are approved for assistance then we'll do everything we can," he explained. He also offered his thanks to Howell for hosting the meeting, and to those in attendance.

The flooding was caused by several rounds of heavy rains, which fell on already-soaked ground the week after Christmas. It was the second flooding event in the past month and a half, and left widespread water damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

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