Clay County Flood Damage Reviewed

Thursday, January 21, 2016
Daniel Burr and Alan Vaughn (standing) review photos of flood damage during last week's meeting at the county shed in Piggott. Among those on hand were (seated), from left: Anthony Coy of ADEM, Randy Cornelison of ADEM and Judge Gary Howell.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

Damage in Clay County from the recent flooding event was surveyed Thursday, Jan. 14, by officials from the state and federal level. Representatives from both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) visited a number of sites in the county in an effort to determine if damage was extensive enough to warrant financial help.

The meeting was the second hosted by Clay County Judge Gary Howell to address the damage, as a number of local officials and concerned individuals gathered at the county shed in Piggott.

"Like I told everyone at the first meeting we had, the only way we can qualify for help is if the damage is extensive enough to meet the guidelines of the disaster declaration," Howell told those in attendance.

At the first meeting, held Wednesday, Jan. 6, a number of problem areas were discussed. The meeting came on the heels of Gov. Asa Hutchinson including Clay County in those declared a state disaster area due to flooding, at Howell's request.

The next step in the process of seeking financial aid was to document the damage for the visiting officials. Those on hand included Randy Cornelison of FEMA and Anthony Coy with ADEM. Also returning for the second meeting was Jeff Morris, field representative for Senator Tom Cotton from his office in Jonesboro.

Howell, and Alan Vaughn of the Clay County OEM office, outlined some of the damage. Also on hand were Rector Mayor Teresa Roofe, and Todd Watson with the City of Rector. They indicated the Fifth Street bridge was one of the problem areas they had discovered in the city, and provided photos of the washed-out area.

Glen Moore, of the St. Francis Drainage District, reiterated concerns about the severe bank erosion along Big Slough, near the Highway 139 bridge, southeast of Rector. He also noted there was extensive erosion on both sides of the Highway 119/139 bridge, just north of the Clay-Greene County line.

Both locations were earmarked for inspection later in the day by the officials.

Phillip Wyss, with Clay County Water, also provided information and photos of several problem areas they had found during their inspection. He noted some of the problems had already been temporarily taken care of, but added a number of pipes had been left bare by erosion near Greenway and Datto.

The location near Greenway was also scheduled for inspection, as well as the Big Slough locations south of Rector.

County Road Superintendent Daniel Burr also reviewed damage his department had discovered, and documented, in the days following the most recent flooding. Burr noted some of the smaller jobs had already been addressed, and noted all of the problem areas were documented.

"I know you folks have been through this before, but I want to remind everyone that this is just the first step," Coy explained. "Once there has been a declaration all of this goes out the window, and we start from scratch. We're just trying to get enough information to make a good report, and get a determination, at this time."

Cornelison echoed the sentiments, adding "we just need to check it all out today, see it for ourselves, then we can proceed" he noted.

"All we can do is see if we meet the requirements, and then hope there is a federal declaration," Howell explained. "We've been through this before- I think we've had 25 floods in the 19 years I've been in office. But, as I always tell these guys, we aren't looking for anything we don't deserve--just what's coming to us."

Howell also told those on hand any assistance would be handled by each city, town or other entity, not through the county. "It's my responsibility to issue the disaster declaration, but it's up to each city or town to work with these guys on getting help," he explained.

The officials noted they could provide now clue on how long the evaluation process would take.

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