Weekly Columns

The sound of chainsaws has temporarily replaced the roar of traffic and other noises of daily life in locations across northern Arkansas. Communities are working to clear debris, recover and rebuild after severe storms and tornadoes recently tore through the state.

Seeing the tragic results of Mother Nature’s power never gets easier. Unfortunately, Arkansans have experienced the daunting challenge of recovery in the aftermath of natural disasters. Natural State residents are known to have an unbreakable spirit. As in the past, they are standing together in the face of this hardship to build back stronger. 

In the last several days I’ve witnessed families, neighbors and business owners come together to move downed trees, provide meals and find ways to help comfort friends and strangers in need.  

The heart of our state is its people. There is nothing more Arkansas than dropping everything to support those facing a tragedy. The acts of kindness are abundant.

We are blessed to have local restaurants, entrepreneurs and businesses giving back. A downtown Rogers restauranteur whose home and businesses were mostly undamaged gave out hot dogs, burgers, drinks and snacks. More than 400 meals were handed out at the Benton County district court building and additional downtown shops are sharing what they can with volunteers and families without power or who’ve lost their homes.

That spirit can be found in other areas of the state. In Baxter County, after distributing food and water in the community, members of the Salesville Volunteer Fire Department were treated to local Mexican food from a small business owner. The Food Bank of North Central Arkansas packed boxes of food to distribute to families impacted by the storms.

I am grateful for first responders for their quick action to save lives and rescue folks trapped in their homes and administer first aid. I appreciate the leadership of local and state emergency management officials who helped mobilize immediate response efforts as they continue to manage the recovery process and delivery of assistance.

The coordination and collaboration with all levels of government is crucial at a time like this. As we work closely on various aspects of the response, I appreciated the opportunity to join Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Congressman Steve Womack and emergency management officials including Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell to assess damage. Having an open line of communication as issues arise is important to the long-term success of these efforts.

We’re using every resource in our toolbox to support the immediate needs of our state. That includes the governor authorizing the Arkansas National Guard to help with recovery efforts in Benton County and distribute potable water, as well as urging the president’s approval for the governor’s request for a federal disaster declaration to deliver critical relief. 

As crews clean up from this disaster, we can be proud of the willingness of Natural State residents to lend a helping hand to our neighbors and communities facing a long road to recovery. Arkansans have been in this position before and it’s demonstrated who we are as compassionate, caring folks eager to serve one another. More than anything else, that is what will carry us to a successful recovery and rebuilding of homes, businesses and lives. Please continue to keep all those impacted in your prayers.