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Mayor says Little Rock tornado cleanup could cost $10 million

 Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. provides an update on the city's tornado recovery in a briefing at City Hall on Tuesday.
Daniel Breen
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. provides an update on the city's tornado recovery in a briefing at City Hall on Tuesday.

Crews continue to survey and clear the streets of Little Rock just over a month after an EF-3 tornado ripped through parts of the city.

City contractors have worked since mid-April to remove fallen trees and vegetation from some of the hardest-hit areas of west Little Rock. Work began this week to haul away rubble and scrap from damaged buildings.

In a briefing Tuesday at Little Rock City Hall, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said it could take two to three months for the city to complete the debris removal process. But, he says, the overall recovery could last as long as two years.

“It’s going to take a little bit to get it done. We think at least another 60 to 90 days to get the majority of the debris removed. It’s our estimation that somewhere between a year to two years to fully recover from this devastation,” Scott said.

Scott says early estimates show the cleanup could cost the city as much as $10 million, though the Federal Emergency Management Agency is covering 100% of the costs until May 13. About 3,000 buildings were affected by the March tornado, with 100 completely destroyed and 538 suffering severe damage.

Little Rock Public Works Director Jon Honeywell says the city has prepared for an influx of construction debris from damaged buildings at its landfill.

“If those materials are mixed, we have to treat all of that as a construction debris pile and it has to go in the landfill. We have to keep all those types of piles separated, so that’s why you’ve seen a delay in some of those piles being picked up,” Honeywell said.

So far, donors have given over $300,000 to the Little Rock Cares Emergency Relief Fund, much of which the mayor says will likely go to organizations providing direct help to tornado victims.

“That was within two weeks, more than $300,000, 500 individual donors to give to the people of Little Rock,” Scott said. “We’re going to figure out an opportunity to get some of these dollars to as many directly-impacted individuals as possible.

Mayor Scott says the city has stopped accepting donations of food, instead guiding donors to the Arkansas Foodbank and the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance.

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.