Arkansas governor requests federal disaster declaration for storm damage

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell answers questions about storm recovery efforts at press conference on May 29, 2024 outside Rogers City Hall. She was joined by local officials, including (l-r) Benton County Judge Barry Moehring, Arkansas Division of Emergency Management Director A.J. Gary and Rogers Mayor Greg Hines. (Antoinette Grajeda/Arkansas Advocate)

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday requested a major disaster declaration from the president that will make more resources available to communities recovering from damage caused by fatal tornadoes that tore through north Arkansas Sunday.

“I’ve seen the destruction caused by these storms and it is heartbreaking, but Arkansas is resilient because of her people—the neighbors, first responders, guardsmen and women, and volunteers—helping those in need,” Sanders said in a statement. “Our state is going to need all resources available to help rebuild.”

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, who toured the storm damage in Rogers on Wednesday, said officials are assessing the scale and scope of the destruction and promised to quickly provide assistance if the federal declaration is granted.

“As I told the governor earlier today, we will stand by her and bring in the resources as needed to help all of the communities across Arkansas that have been impacted as they go through this road to recovery, and we will continue to have people on the ground,” Criswell said.

According to preliminary reports from the National Weather Service, at least 11 tornadoes touched down in Arkansas Sunday — four in Benton County, one in Boone and Marion counties, one in Baxter County, one in Fulton County, two in Randolph County and two in Greene County.

The weekend’s severe weather resulted in seven fatalities, according to the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management.

Criswell urged Arkansans to use caution as they clean up debris and crews work to restore power. Roughly 21,000 people in six northern counties were still without power early Wednesday evening, according to

Criswell also encouraged people to document damages by taking photos, which are needed for insurance claims and federal support that may become available.

Officials did not have a timeline for when federal aid might become available, but local assistance is being implemented. Sanders spoke with President Joe Biden on Monday and has signed executive orders to declare an emergency and to authorize paid leave for state employees affected by the severe weather.

Sanders also mobilized two Arkansas Army National Guardsmen to provide potable water distribution at Piney Point Church in Rogers. The mission is expected to last until June 4, according to a press release.

“The citizens of Benton County have a need for this critical, life-sustaining asset, and we’re going to deliver it for them,” said Maj. Gen. Jonathan Stubbs, Arkansas’ adjutant general. “People just need to bring their own water containers, and we’ll help them fill them up.”

Benton County officials on Wednesday said they anticipate additional troops will provide assistance in the area in the coming days.

Meanwhile, local residents can drop off their vegetative debris at the Benton County Fairgrounds north parking lot. The public can dispose of logs, tree branches and brush at the site, which opened Wednesday. Starting Thursday, it will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday until further notice.

“There’s all sorts of challenges occurring in our community right now,” Rogers Mayor Greg Hines said. “Folks are still hurting, folks are still homeless and hungry, and we’re trying to do what we can as a government in our role to help lessen that blow as best as possible.”

This story first appeared in Arkansas Advocate and is being republished through a Creative Commons License. See the original story here. Arkansas Advocate is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arkansas Advocate maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sonny Albarado for questions: [email protected]. Follow Arkansas Advocate on Facebook and Twitter.