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Beebe requests federal disaster declaration

LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Mike Beebe on Tuesday sent a letter to President Obama requesting a disaster declaration for seven Arkansas counties effected by the Christmas Day winter storm that brought ice and record snowfall.

Nearly 200,000 Entergy Corp. customers were without power during the height of the storm. Many utility customers, mostly in Garland, Hot Spring and Pulaski counties, which were included in the disaster request, were without power for a week.

Other counties included in the disaster declaration request were Grant, Lonoke, Perry and Saline.

The seven counties sustained an estimated $9 million in storm damage, with debris-removal costs amounting to three-fourths of the total cost.

Federal aid resulting from the declaration would help state and local agencies recover their costs from the storm response. The storm did not, however, meet the eligibility criteria to obtain assistance for individual victims, the governor’s office said Tuesday.

During the aftermath of the storm, Beebe called out the Arkansas National Guard to help with ambulance service in Pulaski and Faulkner counties. The governor declared the entire state a disaster area, which he said would enable the state Department of Emergency Management work efficiently with other state agencies in providing storm-related assistance.

Beebe declared similar declarations to ease federal regulations for the transport of utility crews and supplies, as well as poultry and poultry feed.

Fourteen National Guards members with seven military ambulances also were called out to assist first responders in Conway, Little Rock and Jacksonville.

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