Weekly Columns

Weathering the Storm

Senator John Boozman's Column for the Week of May 9, 2011

May 09 2011

Even before the sun came out after the recent devastating storms, neighbors came together to help each other.  They have offered shelter to victims; brought chainsaws out to cut away fallen trees; donated bottled water and food to volunteers helping to clean up the disaster Mother Nature left behind.

It is a true testament to who we are.  We recognize that as individuals we have a responsibility to our communities.  While our hearts are heavy for those who lost loved ones and those whose lives have been devastated by the storms, the compassion for our neighbors in need drives us to lend a hand.  

The collision of storms over the Natural State brought record flooding across our region.  Several Arkansas counties suffered flood-related damage that won’t be completely determined until the water recedes.

The weather spawned violent tornados that caused substantial damage.  The city of Vilonia was especially hard-hit by one of those tornados, which took the lives of four people.  The storms also caused extensive damage to the Little Rock Air Force Base.  This same storm system tore across the south, killing hundreds of people, and displacing many more.

Governor Beebe issued a disaster declaration and damage assessments are ongoing.  All available resources at the state and local level, including the Arkansas National Guard, are being used, but greater federal assistance is needed to help our communities recover.

My staff and I are actively working with state and county officials to assist in the assessment process, be a resource and help answer questions that officials and citizens have during this difficult time. Once this process is completed, I will be working closely with the delegation to ensure that our communities receive the support they need to rebuild.  We, as a delegation, have already submitted a letter to President Obama and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate asking that Arkansas receive a major disaster declaration for these counties as well as for FEMA to make available a myriad of assistance programs for individuals, small businesses and farmers affected by the storms.

Spring in our part of the country can wear on one’s nerves.  The remnants of winter clashing with the warmer air create severe weather patterns that will create many more potential life-threatening storms through the coming months, so we all must remain vigilant to protecting ourselves and our loved ones this storm season.  

We unfortunately have long history of severe storms in Arkansas.  However, that does not make it any easier when they result in tragedy.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Arkansans who have been impacted by the recent wave of severe weather and our work will not end until our communities are rebuilt.