Weekly Columns

Arkansas Strong

Jun 02 2019

The Arkansas River is experiencing historic flooding that has unfortunately resulted in Natural State homes, businesses and communities now finding themselves underwater. The water level has surpassed the record floods of 2015, 1990, 1941 and 1927. What we are facing is unprecedented, however the strength of Arkansas is its people. Arkansans are rising to meet this challenge.

As I travel around our state, I have seen the willingness of friends, neighbors and strangers who are helping and supporting Arkansans in need. We can be encouraged by volunteers who filled sandbags to build barriers against the water, businesses that opened their doors to provide families displaced by floods with food and housing and individuals who helped others get to higher ground. The all-hands-on-deck efforts demonstrate how so many communities are eager to assist their families, friends and even strangers in these difficult circumstances. This natural disaster is truly bringing out our best.

Having spent much of this week visiting communities hard hit by flooding and surveying damage, I am heartened to see the strength and mental fortitude of Arkansans. While we don't yet know the full impact of this disaster, it is considerable. President Trump issued an emergency declaration for Arkansas, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide assistance for emergency protective measures for 16 counties spanning across our state.

On Thursday, Governor Asa Hutchinson invited members of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation to participate in an aerial tour of flooding across the state. We saw the scope of the disaster at Toad Suck, Dardanelle, Ozark, Trimble Lock and Dam, Van Buren and Fort Smith. Having grown up in Fort Smith, I’ve never seen water levels in the community this high. 

The power of Mother Nature is truly remarkable. This continues to be a dangerous situation and we are fortunate to have the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, law enforcement, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Arkansas National Guard and many other organizations and individuals who are closely monitoring the water levels, levees and dams and are ready to respond to potential emergencies. President Trump recognized these efforts, tweeting that Arkansas’s “local officials are doing a great job” in responding to the flooding.

I have been in close contact with state and local leaders and have maintained an open line of communication with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM). Personnel are working extended shifts in order to keep residents safe. I appreciate their tireless efforts to respond to this historic natural disaster. 

This is one of the worst natural disasters in our state’s history, but we can be proud of the resolve that Arkansans have demonstrated to face this challenge. There is a long road ahead to recovery and my office stands ready to help. Federal government resources are critical in the immediate aftermath of this devastating event. I’m committed to ensuring the federal response is appropriate and timely.  

My staff and I will continue to support the needs of our state as we get through this disaster and lead coordination between the federal government and state and local officials that will be necessary for recovery and rebuilding.