March 17, 2007 - Posted at 8:45 p.m. CDT
DESHA COUNTY, AR - Governor Beebe testified before a U.S. House Committee earlier this week about the state's experiences with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of the tornado that hit Desha County. But he's not the only politician from Region 8 speaking out. U.S. Congressman Marion Berry had plenty to say about the agency that left an Arkansas town high and dry.
On February 24th, an F-3 tornado rolled through the town of Dumas, injuring 27 people, damaging 150 homes and put at least 800 people out of work in the small town. Help has come, but it hasn't been easy.
"It doesn't have to be this way. FEMA can work for the people just like they can work against them," said Berry.
FEMA trailers have arrived in Desha County. About 30 mobile homes are now on the ground in Dumas...but there is no federal assistance coming.
"The bottom line is this...FEMA has very broad authority and when they say 'well, that just doesn't fit within our guidelines,' that's not true, because they have the authority to weigh their own guidelines when they see a need," said Berry.
When a tornado hit the Region 8 community of Marmaduke on April 2nd, 2006, it took two weeks before FEMA disaster recovery centers were in place.
"You have to question, are they making decisions based on politics? You have to wonder when they provide instant response to a place that votes one way and almost no response to a place that votes another way" said Berry.
And as the cleanup continues in Dumas...so does the hope.
"We're going to keep on working until we get FEMA so it works like it's supposed to," said Berry.