Extent of FEMA involvement unknown

Monday, February 2, 2009

Rumors regarding assistance to Blytheville area residences from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are not true, according to David Lendennie, director of Mississippi County's Office of Emergency Management.

Lendennie said Friday that he had not yet heard from either FEMA or the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, and he doesn't know when they will be in town.

Assistance is usually offered only to cities and municipalities to maintain public services. If any individual assistance is approved, it will only be for "uninsured losses," Lendennie said.

"FEMA will not reimburse people for buying generators unless it's an extreme case," Lendennie said. "Only people with special medical needs requiring life support of something" might be eligible for reimbursement, he said.

Until the state and federal agencies get here to assess the situation, there will be no assistance at all, he said.

Some people in the area may be accessing an old FEMA Internet site that states the agency will reimburse families up to $800 for purchasing a generator. That site is not correct, Lendennie said.

"That Web page is dated 2008," he said. That was for flooding victims last year, he said.

Crews from all three states in Entergy's coverage area are in town to help restore power, a spokesman for Entergy said.

"They are all out there working as hard as they can" to get power restored, Lendennie said.

Until then, Lendennie hopes all area residents will take advantage of numerous shelters and warming stations in the area.

In addition to shelters at the First United Methodist Church operated by the American Red Cross, and a shelter at God's Holy Temple Church on Division Street, there are several other locations in the area where folks can go to either stay or warm up.

A Red Cross shelter remains open at the Manila Community Center. An independent shelter has been set up at the Leachville Church of Christ.

Warming stations have been set up at the Osceola Community Center, near the high school, and at the Gosnell Community Center, behind the police department.

Lendennie urged residents in the county to check on their neighbors to make sure everyone's OK, especially the elderly or ill. "They are most at risk," he said.

Plans are now being made to establish a burn center so that residents can take the yard debris for disposal, Lendennie said. Until that is established, residents are asked to just pile the debris and wait for further instructions.