Added June 3 from a Response Note submitted May 16
During April 2011, a series of severe thunderstorms generated damaging straight-line winds, tornadoes and flooding across Arkansas. The heavy rains associated with these storms caused flash flooding and eventual flooding of the Black and White Rivers in the Arkansas Delta and contributed to flooding along the Mississippi River.
Late in the night of April 14 to early April 15, 10 tornadoes (EF1-EF2) were confirmed in central Arkansas in the Little Rock warning areas. Seven people were killed. On April 25, another tornado outbreak slammed the southwest and central portions of the state. Fifteen tornadoes (EF1-EF3) were confirmed. One of the stronger of these tornadoes, an EF2, tore through three counties (Pulaski, Faulkner and White) and during its 51-mile trek, hit the town of Vilonia in Faulkner County, killing 4 and causing major structural damage.
Between April 23-27, the state experienced major flooding and flash flooding. At least 5 flash flood fatalities were reported in northwestern Arkansas. As the ground became saturated, run off created moderate to major flooding along the Buffalo, Black, Spring, Eleven Point, White, Arkansas and Ouachita Rivers. Seven people died in flash floods. The Mississippi Delta counties are continuing to flood. As of May 12, Benton, Clay, Faulkner, Garland, Pulaski, Randolph, Lincoln, Saline, Crittenden, Madison, Montgomery, Phillips, Washington, Boone, Jefferson, and White counties have been declared disaster areas. At this time, roughly 1,800 homes have been reported damaged. However, flooding is ongoing, and estimates are preliminary.
Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation on May 10 offered a preliminary estimate that 1 million acres were flooded and the impact to crops would be upward of $500 million in Arkansas.
As of May 11, no University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture personnel reported any injuries related to the flooding.
The home of one support staff member in Prairie County is under water.
Damage was reported the following county extension offices:
• Madison County, minor damage due to flooding, potential mold issue.
• Sharp County, small leak in office
• Van Buren County, water supply disrupted by storms/power outages, now rectified.
The following preparedness actions have been taken:
• Northeast Extension and Research Center is ready to sandbag if Mississippi River overtops levee.
• Rohwer Research Station is ready to evacuate if Mississippi River levee breached.
Communications – The media, both the general press and agriculture industry outlets, were key targets in an effort to tell the agriculture portion of the flooding story to the public. The CES Communications department began sending out disaster-related news stories on April 15, the morning after the first wave of dangerous weather swept through Arkansas.
• April 15 –The first story issued about farmers assessing damage following
tornadoes, hail and high winds.
• April 22 – Story issued about dangers related to storm damaged trees.
• April 27 – News story issued about efforts by Faulkner County faculty and 4-H’ers helping in cleanup following deadly tornado at Vilonia
Flooding specific stories began April 25, the Monday after a weekend of torrential rains.
• April 25 –The first stories were “situational,” giving the media and the public its first look at the damage being caused and potential effects on agriculture.
• April 28 – The first of the “how-to” stories was issued, advising the public of key disaster recovery information available at county extension offices. Also issued was an overview of the flooding situation statewide, and a story on preventing blackleg, “hardware disease” in cattle.
• April 29 – News story issued on stream bank erosion and corrective/preventative measures.
• May 2 – News story on evacuation orders in two counties.
• May 3 – News story on what farmers need to examine when water recedes; story on safe food following a disaster.
• May 5 – News story on what corn growers need to examine when water recedes; news story on water seeding rice; news story on flooding overview.
May 6 – News story on new flood damage to grain bins, etc., preparations for crest of Mississippi River; news story on flooding-soy planting dates; news story on evaluating flooded cotton for replanting; news story on flood erosion on young sorghum/corn stands.
• May 9 – News story about anxiety levels rising with Mississippi River levels.
• May 10 – News story about Arkansas Procurement Assistance Center and how it can help Arkansas businesses compete for government disaster cleanup projects.
• May 11 – News story on per-acre costs for planting corn, rice; news story advising flooded farmers to check their forward contracts and insurance policies.
• May 12 – interviews with family life specialist were offered to media to describe coping actions for disaster victims.
Disaster Education – The majority of the University of Arkansas’ efforts have been educational and revolved around getting specially targeted educational materials into the hands of our faculty and staff in the field who are then getting materials out to the public. CES Community and Economic Development, along with Communications, Family and Consumer Sciences, Animal Science, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, and Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences faculty and staff have worked together to deliver timely and pertinent information to county offices. Because disaster education faculty did not want to overwhelm county level faculty with information, all information sent was targeted to a) clientele served (Ag, 4-H, FCS, etc), b) impacts of event at county level, and c) phase of disaster cycle (awareness, preparedness, response, assessment and recovery).
State office began by making National Weather Service watches, warnings and radar available to employees and clientele on the home page. We also began sending out the Severe Weather Outlooks from the National Weather Service to all county offices.
Educational materials included fact sheets and briefs (in PDF) on:
• preparing for tornadoes and floods
• protecting homes, farms and equipment
• human health and safety issues (with emphasis on water and septic systems)
• feeding livestock
• keeping food safe during an emergency
• financial losses and insurance issues following disasters
• salvaging home appliances
• how youth can help with recovery efforts
• managing volunteers in recovery efforts
Most of this information came from our online University of Arkansas Disaster Response Handbook. However, we found out the most effective method for helping our county faculty and staff to use these materials was to send the files in PDF so that they had “grab and go” materials at hand.
We also sent out regular updates on disaster declarations, information on Federal sources of disaster aid and provided contact information for key agency liaisons in the state.
Allied Agency Work – The Arkansas Procurement Assistance Center (APAC) in Community and Economic Development, is helping Arkansas businesses obtain government contracts to provide cleanup, construction and repair services in the wake of flooding and other storm damage.
County faculty and staff disseminated information sent by the state office to their clientele and community members. Many of our county staff worked closely with the county judges (the county executive), USDA (primarily RD and FSA) and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management to monitor local conditions and assess damages.
• County faculty and staff using and disseminating educational materials
• Organizations from within Arkansas and in other states have found our materials on disaster response and are linking to our web page
• Since January, newspapers from across the state have picked up on our awareness and preparedness materials and generated roughly 25 news articles from these materials
• Agriculture reporter at state’s largest daily sends note saying “beaten by extension again” referring to disaster coverage
• University of Arkansas CES is receiving calls about flooding and its impacts from state, national and international news agencies, including The Associated Press, Reuters-Chicago, Deustche Presse Agentur in Washington.
• Arkansas Radio Network and Reuters both interviewed CES FCS faculty on coping, emotionally with disaster.