State officials hope to have preliminary tornado damage estimates in Northeast Arkansas done by Friday (Dec. 17) for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Gov. Asa Hutchinson toured hard-hit Trumann on Thursday (Dec. 16) and said the uninsured damage levels have to reach at least $5 million for FEMA aid to kick in.
To receive a federal disaster declaration which would prompt FEMA aid, the damage has to be uninsured losses that in totality reach that threshold. The governor said he thinks it will be met and he expects many of the homes in the region to be declared total losses.
Hutchinson has spoken with President Joe Biden and the president told him the federal government will move swiftly to provide public and private aid if the threshold is reached.
“Our main goal is to get the damage assessed so that we can help the home owners,” he said.
Two people died when a series of twisters spawned in Northeast Arkansas in the early evening on Dec. 10. The damage path from one tornado that may have stayed on the ground from the town of Augusta in Woodruff County to central Kentucky is still being studied by the National Weather Service to determine if it is the longest continuous track tornado in history, stretching for more than 200 miles possibly.
It’s believed this storm is the same one that wreaked havoc in Leachville and Monette destroying untold numbers of homes, damaging public and private property, and killing at least two Arkansans.
The tornado that swept through Trumann came a couple of hours later and carved a destructive path through the heart of Poinsett County’s largest city. Despite the destruction, no lives were lost in the city that is roughly the same size as Mayfield, Kentucky that was leveled by a deadly twister from the same set of storms the same night.
The storm systems stretched from Arkansas to Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois, and Kentucky. At least 74 people have been confirmed dead in Kentucky, which was the hardest hit of the states. Once the total damage is tallied and the death toll calculated, officials with the NWS believe this could be the most destructive set of storms ever during the month of December and will rank among the worst ever regardless of month.
Hutchinson promised $10,000 to the city to kickstart cleanup and aid efforts. He said more state dollars will be sent to the region once the federal aid has been doled. The governor acknowledged the state was spared a greater loss of life and didn’t have the same damage amounts as some adjacent states.
But to those who have lost homes, jobs and loved ones in the Natural State the impact on their lives is just the same, he said.
“It’s a traumatic event in your life,” he said.