SEPTEMBER 2, 2005 - Posted at 2:37 p.m. CDT
LITTLE ROCK, AR - From the military to churches, Governor Mike Huckabee is summoning forces across Arkansas today to prepare for the expected arrival of 20,000 hurricane refugees from Louisiana.
Senator Blanche Lincoln says Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith is to start taking in 4,000 of the refugees, with the first group already on their way.
The governor says plans are being made to house thousands more at church camps, scout camps, and public housing apartments.
Schools closed during last year's statewide consolidation might be used for housing or for industrial use. Commercial property also was being inventoried for businesses that cannont carry on in Louisiana.
Huckabee says teachers that fled Lousiana can get jobs in Arkansas schools and other workers will be be able to find places within the workforce as they settle into what will be a long stay in Arkansas.
The governor is seeking federal clearance to use sixty C-130 transport planes from Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville to bring in refugees. He said Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco asked for at least 200 buses, with drivers and law enforcement escorts, to drive refugees to Arkansas. The state is in the process of rounding up the buses. Huckabee says school buses, motor coaches and any other type of bus that can safely make the trip will be used.
Huckabee is urging all storm victims to put their names on a state registry. Signing up will allow the state to get a better handle on the numbers and better coordinate services for refugees, including mail, insurance claims, banking, schooling, and medical care. Refugees are asked to register at county centers or at the Web site, kare.arkansas.org.
Registering should help the state avoid double counting people when they move around and also will help the state get federal reimbursement. Huckabee says the purpose is not to be intrusive but to improve the prospects of quickly seeing to the needs of the storm victims.