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Also today President Barack Obama approved a Major Disaster Declaration for Faulkner County, less than 24 hours after Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe made his request to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials. The President’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in Faulkner County.
Spokesman for the National Weather Service at Little Rock said that Sunday’s tornado was the fifth time since 1950 that Vilonia has been hit by a tornado. The tornado path started at I-40 and hit both the towns of Vilonia and Mayflower. Vilonia was hit by a EF2 in 2011 and a F3 in December of 1982. The last EF4 storm to hit Arkansas was in Franklin County in 2011 when it struck the town of Denning. Four people were killed in that storm and 27 injured. That storm was 45 miles long. Sunday’s storm was a half mile wide and now believed to be 30 miles long. A reported 15 people were killed in storms in the state of Arkansas Sunday. Also reporting fatalities were El Paso and Lake Maumelle.
FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate, who was in Arkansas Monday, named Timothy J. Scranton as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.
The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management is working with FEMA to set up Disaster Response Centers in Faulkner County.
Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
Funding is also available to state and local governments and certain non-profit organizations for expenses of debris removal and emergency work.
FEMA said that residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance today by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362), or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.
Additional federal declarations may be requested as damage assessments take place. Gov. Beebe was touring damaged areas in western Pulaski County this afternoon.
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel Monday said residents needing information and assistance may also call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office toll-free hotline at (800) 482-8982. Our phone counselors are ready to help connect residents with government and private organizations who are providing information and assistance. He also said those needing immediate disaster relief assistance may call the Arkansas American Red Cross at 1 (800) REDCROSS.
Also Monday, McDaniel urged residents of the affected areas and those wanting to help in recovery efforts to be on the lookout for individuals who may try to financially benefit from the disaster.
“Even as our first responders continue search and recovery efforts in the areas hardest hit by the storms, residents in outlying areas need to be prepared for scam artists trying to take advantage of them,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel warned residents of the affected areas to beware of unscrupulous individuals known as “storm chasers.”
These scam artists attempt to take advantage of storm victims by going door-to-door to offer repair or debris-removals services, typically offering inexpensive prices or other terms designed to entice homeowners to agree right away. But often the scammers demand money up front, sometimes taking a homeowner’s insurance claim payment, and then do not complete the promised work.
Arkansans who are eager to lend their financial support to storm recovery efforts should make sure their charitable dollars are being used as promised, McDaniel said.
To protect consumers and to ensure that donations are used for the intended purpose, state law requires that most charitable organizations register with the Attorney General’s Office prior to soliciting donations.
Before giving money to an unfamiliar charity, contact the Attorney General’s Charities Division of the Consumer Protection Division by E-mailing charities@ArkansasAG.gov.