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Obama declares Christmas storm disaster

WASHINGTON – President Obama on Tuesday issued a disaster declaration for seven Arkansas counties affected by the Christmas Day storm that brought ice and record snowfall.

Federal funding is now available to the state, local governments and non-profits for emergency work, repairs and replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms in Garland, Grant, Hot Spring, Lonoke, Perry, Pulaski and Saline counties.

The disaster declaration comes a week after Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe made the request.

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.

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

Federal funding will also be available for statewide hazard mitigation measures.

The Arkansas delegation in Congress also sent letters to President Obama and Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in support of Beebe’s request.

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