LITTLE ROCK (3-5)

Telltale signs of destruction are still evident from the January ice storm that crippled parts of northern Arkansas . Piles of trees, limbs, and other debris can still be seen along some highways in the northern part of the state.

     Crews from the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) are making steady progress in clearing the piles of brush and debris. The AHTD has moved manpower and equipment from other parts of the state to north Arkansas to assist with the cleanup efforts.

     Downed trees, power poles, and power lines closed dozens of highways in the last week of January. Most of the damage occurred north of a line from just south of Fort Smith to Heber Springs to West Memphis . “It’s been several years since we’ve seen damage this extensive,” said AHTD Director Dan Flowers.

 Unlike the ice storm of 2000, the AHTD has opted not to contract out any of the debris removal work in 2009. “The year 2000 ice storm was more of a statewide event,” Flowers noted. “We were not able to move manpower and equipment from one part of the state to another in 2000 because the area affected was so large. After receiving federal approval, contracts were awarded to private, out-of-state companies to assist in the work. We believe we can do the work ourselves this time and avoid the more costly contract labor.”

 The AHTD has reported approximately $9.7 million in statewide damages associated with the fallen trees and power poles from the January event. The AHTD is pursuing emergency relief funding from the FHWA to recoup the cost of these cleanup efforts. Final approval from the FHWA is expected soon.

 In addition to the $9.7 million in debris removal, the AHTD spent about $2 million on ice and snow removal during the storm. That brings the total cost of the storm for the AHTD to nearly $12 million.

 “Even though we are calling these ‘statewide damages,’ the fact is we only incurred significant debris removal costs in five of our ten highway districts,” Flowers said. “To put these costs in perspective, we usually spend about $4 million per year on ice and snow removal efforts in Arkansas . We’ve spent about three times that amount on this one storm that primarily affected only half the state. This was one powerful ice storm.”



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