LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday toured flooded areas in southwestern Arkansas and said he plans to seek a federal disaster declaration for counties damaged by natural disasters in May and June.

LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday toured flooded areas in southwestern Arkansas and said he plans to seek a federal disaster declaration for counties damaged by natural disasters in May and June.


The governor also said he has asked the U.S. secretary of agriculture to make emergency loans available in 37 Arkansas counties.


Hutchinson viewed the flooding from a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter and toured areas on the ground that received damage when the Red River overflowed its banks because of recent heavy rains.


"There’s nothing better than an aerial view to understand and grasp the extent of the flooding," Hutchinson said in an interview Tuesday after returning to Little Rock. "Whenever one river turns into an ocean, it’s just remarkable."


The governor viewed a section of U.S. 71 in Little River County that remained closed Tuesday because of high water; saw farms with extensive crop damage and flooded residences in the area; and visited Garland City in Miller County, where he met with local officials and first responders and inspected the city’s levee.


The levee had been eroded at the height of the flooding, which prompted a temporary evacuation until it could be rebuilt and strengthened.


The water level on the Red River "is starting to recede, and it’s actually somewhat more instructive to see it now because if you go at the time of the height of the flooding, all you see is water," Hutchinson said. "Now that there’s some that has receded, you see the damage left by the flood."


Hutchinson said it is only now that the waters are receding that an assessment of the damage can begin.


"I think that within probably a couple of weeks we should have a good handle on the damage assessment that we can submit to (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and see where we stack up in terms of the threshold for federal assistance. Clearly there is significant loss of crops, there is damage to farms, there is also damage to businesses and individual homes," he said.


Hutchinson also said that Monday he sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking him to make emergency loans available through the Department of Agriculture to farmers whose lives and livelihoods have been detrimentally affected by natural disasters since early May in 37 counties.


The counties are Boone, Carroll, Conway, Craighead, Crawford, Cross, Faulkner, Franklin, Fulton, Garland, Greene, Hot Spring, Howard, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Little River, Logan, Madison, Marion, Miller, Monroe, Perry, Phillips, Pike, Poinsett, Pope, Prairie, Scott, Sebastian, Sharp, White, Woodruff and Yell.