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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Historical ice storm

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Old man winter more than reared his ugly head this past week, leaving behind damage that surpasses any in recent history, not excluding the tornado that wrecked Highland a year ago. The stories from this unprecedented ice storm will be told for generations as many revert to basic survival within their homes. Doing without necessities such as electric, heat and water, many are realizing simply how good they really have it.

The ice storm which put the majority of the state under a winter weather warning on Monday devastated and disabled huge portions of Arkansas and Missouri by Tuesday afternoon. This natural disaster impacted nearly everyone in the area in some way.

Following Tuesday's storm, over 34,000 of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative's 35,000 plus members were in the dark, not including those from Sharp and other counties covered by Entergy. With thousands of downed poles, transformers and miles of line on the ground, the area looked like a war zone.

The ongoing process of restoring power has been a massive undertaking for the electric companies. Crews from Mississippi and other states have arrived in convoys to assist in the effort. Some estimates say that power could be off as long as four weeks. With these additional crews comes the need for more food and shelter for these workers, not mentioning citizens who are without power in their homes and businesses.

Generators are a viable option for power, but until Friday, these were very scarce and in some reports, the prices were severely increased, making them a non-affordable option for many.

On Jan. 28, communication was at a virtual standstill as cell and phone services were sporadic to non-existent and many in rural areas were trapped in their homes due to the massive amounts of fallen trees across roads and on homes and vehicles.

Freezing was not the only danger to those without heat but also hazards from potential debris and fallen lines were complicated by further rain and snow. Many homebound elderly people were caught without power for things as vital as oxygen.

Emergency rescue was hampered by the road conditions, fallen lines and the inability to get fuel for their vehicles due to the power outages. One policeman was doing a welfare check when a power line fell behind his vehicle in rural Sharp County. These checks were prevalent on the scanner Wednesday night as the road systems came to a virtual standstill as nearly 3 inches of freezing rain and ice plummeted the area.

The American Red Cross and many local churches have set up shelters in the area to provide food, showers and a warm place to sleep. Without power, many whose water supply is from a well, are also without water, creating a need for emergency supplies of water. While many have relatives with water, there are still rural residents with no way to obtain this life sustaining necessity. There have been reports of many melting snow and ice for flushing commodes and washing dishes.

There are boil orders for both Fulton and Izard County. Those in Fulton County on the Cherokee Village Water Association will have to boil water. If you are on the Fulton County Water Association system in the county, you too must boil your water before consuming it. In Izard county, Guion Water Department, Calico Rock Waterworks, Oxford Waterworks and Melbourne Waterworks must boil water, as well.

The National Guard from Camp Robinson sent soldiers and airmen with generators, supplies, shelter and personnel to assist in the emergency situation. In Sharp County, 90 soldiers were called upon to assist authorities. The National Guard was fed by the city of Hardy and many other troops assisted in delivering generators.

Fulton County Judge Charles Willett emphasized that Fulton County is still in a state of emergency and that it will be weeks before things are back to normal.

For those who are in need of shelter or a place to shower and a hot meal in Fulton County, the Salem First Baptist Church is set up for those in need. The Viola Assembly of God is also a designated disaster shelter.

In Sharp County, the Ash Flat Church of Christ is open. In Izard County, St. Mary of the Mount Catholic Church in Horseshoe Bend is also a shelter. The Red Cross is assisting with these shelters.

The recovery process has just begun and the area has a long road to restoring normalcy, but the fact that no lives were lost in the area is an extreme miracle, authorities say.

If anyone is in need, they may contact their local sheriff's department for information on any assistance that may be available in their respective communities.

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