GARLAND CITY, ARK. — Gov. Asa Hutchinson is preparing to ask for a federal disaster declaration for 37 Arkansas counties impacted by flooding.
On Tuesday, he toured damage along the Red River in the southwest corner of the state.
"Being able to fly over the flood area is about as eye-opening as you can imagine. It's much more informative really than being on the ground," Hutchinson told reporters at the foot of the U.S. Highway 82 bridge that crosses the Red River in Garland City. That bridge has been closed for more than a week, with water covering the roadway.
The governor also met with local leaders and volunteers, thanking them for their efforts. Hardest hit have been farmers.
"The damage to crops, to livestock and to property, and obviously there have been lives that have been lost as well, that is the worst tragedy. But we've got to do an assessment of damages and that will be ongoing in the coming months," Hutchinson said.
Joining the governor was David Maxwell, director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. He said initial work detailing the damage is nearly complete.
"We hope to finish the preliminary survey this week," Maxwell said. He notes that assessors have been out looking at areas impacted by flooding.
"We flew two days this week looking at houses in the flooded areas and they're driving today, so hopefully they'll get that individual assistance (requests) done this week," Maxwell said.
Hutchinson is also asking the nation’s agriculture secretary to approve emergency loans for those impacted by flooding.
Heavy rains in Oklahoma and Texas in recent weeks helped push the Red River and Arkansas River beyond their banks. Hutchinson says the flooding shows work needs to be done to the state’s levee system.
"I was being briefed constantly on the levee situation as governor, but it reminds me because it's not just here, it's in Perry County. We have some erosion of our levees and we need to increase our inspection of our levees, our non-flood time work on our levee system, and I know we have some legislative leaders who are going to be holding hearings on that," Hutchinson said.