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Sanders confirms eight Arkansans dead from tornado

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds a media briefing on tornado damage in Bentonville on Sunday, May 26, 2024.
Matthew Moore
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders holds a media briefing on tornado damage in Bentonville on Sunday, May 26, 2024.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed in a press conference Sunday in Bentonville that eight Arkansans died during an EF-3 tornado early Sunday morning.

The tornado crossed the Oklahoma border around 12:30 a.m., first touching down in the small town of Decatur in Benton County. Sanders was flanked by local, county, state, and federal leaders as she described the importance of constant coordination between the levels of government needed to recover from a tornado of this magnitude.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the fact that we have such great relationships with our mayors, county judges, county sheriff, and our federal delegation," Sanders said. "We have already have a number of contacts with the federal administration.”

Congressman Steve Womack said he has been in touch with many leaders in federal agencies, including the Small Business Administration, and expects to see strong support at the federal level. He said it’s important to remember it’s still a very dangerous scene across the region.

“On my way here, a guy drove right through a couple of power lines," Womack said. "They weren’t active, but there he was in his vehicle concerned for his wife. These are the kinds of things you have to be concerned about when you’ve had such a devastating event. We’re still under 24 hours and having to deal with it.”

Sen. John Boozman gave credit to local media outlets for providing strong and reliable news and weather coverage.

“I think lives were probably saved last night because of the great job that [the media] did alerting people that this truly was a very dangerous situation," Boozman said.

Sanders said she plans to spend all day Monday in the region.

“Our goal is to assess the needs and figure what is necessary and what resources we need to provide to help address whatever people are looking for in the immediate aftermath.”

The governor authorized the use of $250,000 from the Governor’s Disaster Response and Recovery Fund to be used at the discretion of the Director of the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management for recovery.

Matthew Moore is a reporter and producer for Ozarks At Large. Before going into journalism, Matthew spent time in the music production industry, working with artists such as Reba McEntire, Steve Martin, 2 Chainz and Chris Thile.