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Benton County judge signs emergency disaster declaration

by Mike Jones | May 12, 2021 at 5:27 a.m.
Flood water surges Wednesday April 28 2021 across Dream Valley Road on the east edge of Rogers, about 100 yards south of Arkansas 12. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

BENTONVILLE -- Benton County will ask for state money to clean up the mess left by flooding last week. The county and local cities estimate total public infrastructure damages at near $7 million.

Benton County Judge Barry Moehring signed an emergency disaster declaration Wednesday, according to a county news release.

Rogers received 7.17 inches of rain from 7 a.m. April 28 to 7 a.m. April 29, according to the National Weather Service in Tulsa, Okla. Centerton and Pea Ridge both received a little over 3 inches, according to the Weather Service.

The south and southeast parts of the county were hit particularly hard by a severe storm, Moehring said Thursday.

The declaration allows the county and affected cities to request assistance from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management for uninsured public sector damages attributed to the storm and for repair to structures to predisaster conditions, the release stated.

The countywide threshold for state assistance is $861,009. That number is formulated on a per capita of $3.89 per person based on the 2010 census, Robert McGowen, county administrator of public safety, said Thursday. To receive federal assistance, the threshold statewide for damage caused by the weather event is $4,019,000, the release stated.

The county damage assessment total will continue to change in the coming days, Moehring said. Northwest Arkansas National Airport hasn't yet turned in its report.

An estimated statewide damage total isn't yet available because assessments are still being done, said Kathy Smith, Emergency Management spokeswoman. Washington County is still doing damage assessment, said Brian Lester, county attorney.

If the damage is extensive enough in Benton County and other counties within the state, the governor may declare a statewide disaster which, if confirmed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, could trigger assistance from the federal government, the release stated.

If the county receives a state disaster declaration, each entity can receive up to $500,000 from the state. The percentages are 35% from the state and a 65% local share, McGowen said.

If the county receives a presidential disaster declaration, there's no limit on the amount of money received and each entity is reimbursed at 75% from the government with a 25% local share, McGowen said.

Benton County listed $900,000 in damages to roads and bridges. Avoca, Bentonville, Cave Springs, Garfield, Little Flock, Lowell, Rogers and Pea Ridge have filed damage assessments so far with the county. Lowell had a damage estimate of $2.5 million, according to information provided by McGowen.

Lowell Mayor Chris Moore said most of the estimated damage was to the Puppy Creek bridge ($1.12 million) and $1.22 million related to drainage for the Weatherton subdivision.

Representatives from state Emergency Management will be in the county next week to start their preliminary assessment, McGowen said. It could be at least a month or so before the county hears about its status, he said.

Individuals who had damage to uninsured homes are encouraged to report it through the county website, which has a click-through banner at the top, the release stated.

These reports will also be communicated to the state and potentially to FEMA for damage assistance. The agencies will determine if personal property damage assistance will be awarded. Only damage to homes, dwellings or other structures that can be occupied may be covered, the release stated.

"Given the damage our local mayors, Benton County Road Department, Benton County public safety team and I have seen from touring the impacted areas, I believe a declaration is appropriate," Moehring said. "If the monetary damages of the storm are significant enough, then we'll be able to receive additional assistance for repairs."

Floodwater washed out a new area of the Lake Bella Vista dam in Bentonville. A news release from the city said the structure had "an additional failure" about 50 feet in width, west of the east spillway.

The dam was first damaged during flooding in 2008 and has had additional flood damage since. Bentonville listed $589,400 in damages including an estimated $358,878 to Lake Bella Vista and the dam, according to information the city provided to the county.

Weather Service staff were in Benton County on April 29 to investigate a possible tornado 3 miles south of Garfield about 8 a.m. April 28. McGowen said the event was not a tornado.

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Local forecast

There is a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms after 1 p.m. today with a high near 66. Tonight, there is a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms mainly after 1 a.m. with a low around 55.

On Saturday, there is a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly before 1 p.m. with a high near 78. Saturday night calls for a 50% chance of showers and thunderstorms mainly after 1 a.m. with a low around 63.

On Sunday, there is 50% chance of showers and thunderstorms with a high near 74. Sunday night has a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms before 1 a.m. with a low around 47.

Source: National Weather Service

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