LR Mayor Frank Scott, Red Cross director: tornado recovery will take months or more

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 2,979 views 

A week after a major tornado ripped through the center of the capital city, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. and American Red Cross Arkansas director Lori Arnold-Ellis said recovery efforts will take months or longer to achieve.

Scott, who appeared on this week’s edition of Capitol View, said it was by “the grace of God” there weren’t fatalities in Little Rock, though there were five people killed by the storms in other Arkansas cities, including one in North Little Rock and four in Wynne.

Little Rock residents will have to undertake extraordinary patience, he said, as roughly 3,000 structures – homes, apartments, businesses and infrastructure – were damaged from the EF3 tornado that hit Little Rock on Friday, March 31st.

“When you go see the western portions of Little Rock, it looks like a war zone,” Scott said. “As you know, in a good season and being very aggressive, it takes six to nine months to build a home. So when you’re talking about 3,000 structures with a mixture of multi-family complexes, residential developments, and commercial, it’s going to take quite some time to rebuild.”

As mayor for a little over four years, Scott has had to handle a number of unique challenges, some of which his predecessors never faced. During his tenure, Scott has overseen the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the social unrest associated with the George Floyd murder as well as a historic flood and a brutal snowstorm.

“I’m just waiting for locusts to come,” he joked.

Scott said the response from all local, state and federal officials has been overwhelmingly positive. He said Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders has been in daily contact. Her office announced Saturday (April 8) that President Joe Biden approved a 100% federal cost share, for a 30 day period, for state and local resources spent on storm debris cleanup and emergency protective measures in Pulaski, Lonoke, and Cross counties.

“Every Little Rock resident and Arkansan should be proud of the state, federal, and local partnership. Through a chaotic time, you’ve seen nothing but seamless communication, collaboration, and cooperation. I want to give a big shout out to Gov. Sanders and her work with me,” Scott said. “I’m also very grateful for President Biden for quickly declaring a major disaster declaration and sending FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell within less than 48 hours.”

Scott thanked all first responders and additional organizations that have mobilized in the wake of the tornado disaster, including Immanuel Baptist Church, Goodwill, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, and the American Red Cross.

Red Cross Arkansas director Lori Arnold-Ellis said volunteers have been meeting the needs of dislocated Arkansans in central Arkansas and the Wynne area and expect to spend many more weeks assisting across the state.

Arnold-Ellis, who appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics, said there are ever-changing lists of needs for those affected by the storms. She added that sometimes money is the best donation a person can give, so the Red Cross can purchase the products or services needed for different communities.

“Some people ask why, and the reason for that is every individual’s needs are unique, and we want to be able to help them meet their unique needs. So while some person might need baby formula, there’s another person out there who needs a new wheelchair. And so we want to make sure that those finances are able to be designated and sent out specifically to meet different needs,” she said.

She also noted that roughly 900 homes across the state have already been assessed as having major damage or being destroyed.

“We ask people to call 1-800-RED-CROSS and start a case. Next week, we’re going to have our case workers on the ground, helping people begin their recovery as far as what their next steps are, if they qualify for financial aid. Of course, we ask people to also consider registering with FEMA,” Arnold-Ellis said.

The Red Cross can direct those impacted to the appropriate local, state and federal agencies that can assist them.

“The hard part is that all of this support together still isn’t going to fix this problem for all of these people who now have been displaced from their homes permanently. This is going to be a long road to recovery. People aren’t going to be able to get into a house in the next few weeks, because as we know, we don’t have 900 homes just waiting for people to move into,” she added.

You can watch Mayor Scott’s full interview and Arnold-Ellis’ full interview in the videos below.