As of 1 p.m. on Tuesday, floodwaters in Fort Smith dropped below 33 feet. The receding flood opened up the opportunity for assessors to analyze the damages for financial recovery.
Starting Wednesday, the American Red Cross will start assessing 200-300 homes a day, said Andy Brubaker, an executive director for the organization.
“All we need is some identification, like a utility bill, even,” Brubaker said.
Until a federal declaration permits the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to do its own damage assessments, Red Cross volunteers will continue to work within their own means. At least half of the 200 taking the time to help out in Arkansas are in Sebastian County, Brubaker said.
“Here in Fort Smith, we have set up an operations center in support of all of our disaster relief operations in the entire state of Arkansas,” Brubaker said. “While we’ve got a headquarter up in Little Rock, this is the place where we’re trying to coordinate feeding, we’re trying to coordinate sheltering…we actually have an IT support team here, folks with mental health services.”
When FEMA gets authorization, the two groups will coordinate to identify the areas of biggest need. Depending on how many monetary donations the Red Cross receives, financial assistance could be provided through several avenues, Brubaker said. During the recovery process after Hurricane Michael in October 2018, the organization formed partnerships with several institutions, including Walmart, American Express and PayPal, to provide services to those in need.
City leaders and Oklahoma Gas and Electric (OG&E) representatives met Monday night and Tuesday morning to determine how to restore power in certain flood-affected neighborhoods, said Carl Geffken, Fort Smith’s city administrator. Houses without water damage or intrusion were deemed ready for electricity.
“This was to make sure that there were no short circuits or any other problems that could further damage any of our homes or apartments that have already been damaged by floodwaters,” Geffken said.
Until the damage is adequately assessed, the total cost of recovery is still unknown.