President Tours Storm States
Jan. 24, 1999
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton was returning to his native Arkansas today for a firsthand look at devastation caused by last week's killer tornadoes.
Damage from the storms Thursday and Friday led to a federal disaster declaration for five counties in Arkansas and one in Tennessee. Seven people in Arkansas and one in Tennessee died while thousands of homes and businesses were damaged.
Clinton planned a walking tour of parts of Little Rock, Ark., with James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration and an Arkansas native, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Mayor James Dailey and members of the state's congressional delegation.
The president also was to speak to Little Rock citizens from the parking lot of a local grocery damaged by the storms and then travel to Beebe, Ark., one of the hardest hit parts of the state. Winds there were gauged at 200 mph during the tornado.
People in the five counties _ Independence, Pulaski, St. Francis, Saline and White _ designated by Clinton as disaster areas are eligible for grants to pay for temporary living expenses and minor home repairs.
Low-interest loans will be made available to cover residential and business losses not covered fully by insurance.
The storms also destroyed a treehouse where Chelsea Clinton played as a child outside the governor's mansion in Little Rock.
``The fact that the Governor's Mansion, where Hillary and I raised Chelsea for 12 years, was actually in the path of the storm made it all the more real to me,'' Clinton said Friday.