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The EF3 tornado that struck Jonesboro on Saturday afternoon covered a five-mile swath through the city and did millions of dollars in damage was declared a state disaster by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in a news conference Sunday evening at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Convention Center.
The declaration Hutchinson said the unprecedented combination of a tornado strike and the coronavirus outbreak has created simultaneous disasters.
“This clearly meets the threshold to declare a state disaster, and I believe it will meet the federal level as well,” Hutchinson said.
The declaration allows the state to ask the federal government for funds, as well as the Disaster Relief Fund, FEMA, or Congress can consider a special supplemental spending bill.
Mayor Harold Perrin estimated the financial damage in the hundreds of millions, but said the cost could have been much higher.
“It appears no lives have been taken,” Perrin said. “That is the good news that we cling to through this devastating event.
“If I’ve ever witnessed a miracle, this is it.”
With roughly 50 percent of the damage counted, the NEA Red Cross reported more than 50 private residences destroyed and up to 200 structures received some damage, according to the Northeast Arkansas chapter of the American Red Cross.
Perrin and Craighead County Judge Marvin Day expressed pride in the community response, both inside and beyond county lines.
“Thanks to the generosity of our community and neighbors across the region and beyond, we have had more offer of volunteerism than the City and County can use,” Perrin said. “But we will need it in the weeks and months to come as a long road lies ahead.”
A hotline has been set up for those offering service or assistance. Call 870-935-5562 and your generous offer will be paired with a need, if possible.
Please do not call 9-1-1 for a non-emergency.
The City also has seen residents show up with debris at the municipal incinerator and Strawfloor pit. Only vegetation debris (tree limbs, etc.) should be taken to the Strawfloor pit. Residential debris should be taken to Legacy Landfill.
All parties practices social distancing during the news conference and urged the community to not become distracted from the COVID-19 emergency.
“We continue to urge everyone to remain dedicated to social distancing because the coronavirus remains a real and immediate threat,” Perrin said.