Arkansans Helping Arkansans06/05/2015
As I deliver today’s radio address, the floodwaters in our state’s rivers finally should be cresting. In the coming days, the weather forecast calls for no rain and sunny skies across much of the state.
In other words, the worst should be over. But because of the heavy flooding in recent weeks, I have declared 31 of Arkansas’s 75 counties to be disaster areas, which allows them to receive state aid and help immediately.
It has been a tough time for many people across Arkansas. But tough times in our resilient state bring out the best in Arkansans.
Today, I want to share a few stories of the first responders, volunteers and everyday heroes who helped their neighbors — our neighbors — survive the flooding:
• In Jefferson County, Paula Olinger evacuated homeowners by boat and, in some cases, by tractor. Paula is just one of several volunteers in Wright who have been trudging through high waters to help the less fortunate.
• Members of the Arkansas National Guard’s 77th Theatre Aviation Brigade performed an “emergency sling-load operation.” The Guard sealed a pipe holding communications cables, thus providing a pathway for floodwaters to get into the Murray Hydroelectric Plant in North Little Rock. The mission involved configuring five 4,000-pound sandbags into place.
• Mark Hannibal of Texarkana and his family built makeshift levees to keep the Red River out of their home. They spent three days building a 4-foot levee and digging a trench that was 10 feet deep and 4 feet wide. Water flooded fields and a nearby road. So the Hannibal family boated between their home and their vehicles. They’ve put out trotlines — fishing and making the most of the situation with friends who helped to construct the levee.
• In Wright, dozens of volunteers filled and stacked sandbags to protect people and property from rising water.
• The Red Cross supported emergency shelters in Wright, Altheimer, Fort Smith and Texarkana.
• The Salvation Army has provided almost 1,000 meals, drinks and snacks to residents of flooded neighborhoods. In Jefferson County, the Salvation Army delivered food and supplies to flood victims by boat.
• Clare Francavilla works with the Red Cross in Miller County. This week, she drove across her region with state emergency-response teams to assist in relief efforts. While driving, she came across an appreciative lady stranded at a restaurant along the Red River in Garland City. The woman was excited and relieved; she was starting to wonder if she and other victims had been forgotten.
The woman shouldn’t have worried. In Arkansas, we don’t forget others. Whether it comes from the National Guard, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, the state of Arkansas or neighbors and friends, help is always on its way.
That’s how we do things in Arkansas. We take care of each other.