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Council gets update on snowstorm cleanup

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher updated the city council on Jan. 3 about how recovery efforts have been going in the days and weeks following the Christmas snow and ice storm that led to hundreds of thousands of Arkansas losing electrical power.

“People have been good about getting tree and debris out to the street,” Fletcher said. He also said the public has been very patient in working with the city as cleanup efforts continue.

The city has restored to burning tree trimmings at the city recycling center on Marshall Road instead of shredding them.

“There is no way we can keep up with that load,” Fletcher said.

Cleanup efforts have resulted in a tremendous about of overtime. “We are still working on what it will cost money-wise,” Fletcher said. “FEMA is in town. We are trying to get the cost of anything out of the ordinary so we can be reimbursed.”

Since Gov. Mike Beebe declared the snowstorm was a disaster it helps municipalities like Jacksonville to get reimbursed for expenses, he said.

Jacksonville also opened up a warming center immediately after the snowstorm hit because of so many people losing electricity.

“We got a lot of positive feedback about the warming center,” Fletcher added. The center was large enough to hold up to 60 people at one day. It opened Christmas Day and remained in operation until Monday, Dec. 31.

Both the American Red Cross and the Little Rock Air Force Base were helpful with disaster relief efforts. There were times that city fire trucks were used to help transport emergency equipment because some local ambulances were having trouble traveling on city roads on the days following the snowstorm, he said.

“Some of the churches stepped up and provided meals,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher said the snow was very pretty but led to a lot of damage.

“When the tornado came through in April it was in a defined area where the damage hit,” Fletcher said. “It makes it easier to clean up. But this storm basically left damage all over the city.”

The storm resulted in a significant amount of tree limbs dropping to the ground.

Fletcher said city crews were put on notice that they would be working many 12-hour days until recovery efforts were close to completion.

Three-fourths of the city lost its electric power.

“We appreciated the efforts of the electric companies to get the power restored,” he said.

Fletcher said a lot of people take for granted their electric power until they lose it. “We learn then just how dependent we are on electricity,” he said.

Fletcher said he doesn’t think Arkansas has seen the last of snow for 2013. “Arkansas usually gets its snow in January or February,” he said.

While the storm was bad, it could have been a lot worse because forecasters on Christmas night were calling for freezing temperatures that would have made local roads a sheet of ice. But since they stayed above 35 degrees the roads did not freeze over.

Fletcher said one of the largest causalities were large trees that fell in many parts of the city.

“Some of the trees between here and Cabot laid flat down on the freeway,” he said. “This was some strange weather. But I would put up with this more than I would a tornado.”

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